Cutting the eggplant into strips and cooking them until they're tender but still holding their shape allows them to twist and turn around the fusilli, clinging to the noodles like sauce. In addition, the pine nuts add richness to the plate, which--like all good pasta dishes--tastes greater than the sum of its parts. Prep and Cook Time: 40 minutes.
2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2-in.-thick slices and then into 1/2-in.-thick strips
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon plus 1 tbsp. salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
3/4 pound fusilli
1 cup grated ricotta salata cheese, divided
How to Make It
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Chop garlic and set aside. Cut mint leaves into thin ribbons and set aside.
In a large frying pan over medium heat, toast pine nuts, stirring, until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. In the same pan, melt 1 tbsp. butter with 2 tsp. olive oil. Increase heat to high and add half of the eggplant and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook eggplant, stirring frequently, until soft and browned, about 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer eggplant to a plate with a slotted spoon, leaving as much of the butter and oil in the pan as possible. Repeat with remaining eggplant and 1/4 tsp. salt. Remove frying pan from heat and reserve.
Add remaining 1 tbsp. salt and fusilli to boiling water and cook until pasta is tender to the bite, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, heat reserved frying pan over medium-high heat, add remaining 1 tsp. olive oil, chopped garlic, and red chile flakes, and cook until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute. Add reserved eggplant and pine nuts. Cook, stirring, until well combined. Add eggplant mixture and reserved mint to cooked fusilli and toss to combine. Add 1/2 cup ricotta salata cheese and remaining 1 tbsp. butter. Toss until butter melts and everything is well combined. Divide among 6 plates or pasta bowls. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup ricotta salata cheese and serve immediately.