1Bring a large 10-12 quart pot of water to a boil over high heat.
2Preheat a grill (wood, charcoal, or gas) to medium-high direct heat. Or alternately follow this recipe using an indoor stovetop. (Please note, if cooking on a grill, be sure your pan is heavy bottomed and doesn’t have plastic handles.)
3Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large pan set on the grill grate. Once hot, add the onion and sauté until soft,but before they start to brown.
4Add the red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, but don’t allow them to burn. Add the crushed tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste.
5Simmer on a medium-low flame for about 20 minutes. Thrive for balance in the consistency of the sauce, it has to be fluid but it should not look wet. If the sauce is liquidy, cook it a bit more.
6Meanwhile, season the eggplant slices with salt and pepper. Drizzle the eggplant with olive oil, and grill in batches, about 2-3 minutes per side, until they are marked by the grill and cooked through. Remove to a large plate or sheet tray. Allow to cool, slightly, then slice the grilled eggplant into smaller, bite sized pieces. Add the eggplant to the sauce along with the bay leaves.
7Once the large pot of water is at a boil, and the sauce has been simmering, add 2 tablespoons of salt to the water. Add the rigatoni. Cook until al dente, then drain well. Add pasta to the sauce to toss.
8Remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano at the table as an optional garnish for guests.
Tips or Notes:
Canned tomatoes vary brand by brand. Some have more water content. If you find your sauce is watery, cook it a little longer.
Pasta alla Norma is traditionally made with garlic as well as onion and has a garnish of ricotta salata. This is my take on an original recipe hence the title “Nuda”. Feel free to change it up to your liking.