2 large aubergines
Olive or groundnut oil, for frying
1kg fresh tomatoes or 500g passata
2 garlic cloves
A small handful of basil
1 tsp sugar (if you need it)
500g pasta, such as spaghetti, rigatoni, casarecce, mezze maniche or penne
200g salted ricotta, grated
Peel strips of skin from the aubergines so they are striped, then cut them into 5mm slices. If you’re going to salt them, do it now; otherwise just dry them with a clean tea towel. Heat about 5cm oil in a frying pan and fry the slices, turning them halfway, until they are golden brown on both sides, then drain on kitchen paper. Set aside, near the stove so they keep warmish.
Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil. If using fresh tomatoes, peel by plunging them into boiling water for 1 minute, then lift them out with a slotted spoon and cool under cold water, at which point the skins should slip away. Keep the hot water for cooking the pasta later. Roughly chop the tomatoes, removing the seeds if you wish (I don’t).
Crush the garlic cloves with the back of a knife, so they split, but remain whole. Warm some more oil in a frying pan and add the garlic. Once fragrant and lightly golden, remove from the pan, add the tomatoes (or passata) and cook until they collapse into a sauce. You can pass the tomatoes through a food mill back into the pan or, if you’re happy with the texture, simply tear in most of the basil, add the sugar if you think the sauce is too sharp, and a good pinch of salt.
Bring the pan of tomato water back to the boil, add salt, stir well and add the pasta. Cook it until al dente, then drain. Mix the pasta with the sauce and a handful of ricotta. Divide between bowls, top with several slices of aubergine, plus a little more salted ricotta and a couple more basil leaves. Pass around the remaining aubergine slices and cheese, so that people can help themselves.