Tag Archives: Sicilian

CEDRO o LIMONE? Insalata di limone. Sicilian Lemon salad.

Was I excited? You bet I was.

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I was at the Alphington Melbourne Farmers’ Market yesterday and found these beauties at the Sennsational berries stall.

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It is not often that one finds such mature lemons. And what to do with large lemons?

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Make a Sicilian salad like my father used to make (he grew up in Ragusa, Sicily before relocating to Trieste). I did wonder if it was a cedro rather than a lemon, but was told it was a lemon and it tasted like one.

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I removed the skin and squeezed out some of the juice….this lemon was certainly juicy and the salad should not be too acidic.

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This salad likes fresh garlic and I still had some in the fridge that I had bought the week before from the same market, however this time I bought some garlic shoots, added fresh mint, a little parsley and some of the fresh oregano I have growing on my balcony. This oregano plant came from my father’s garden in Adelaide. He died years ago.

The last time I bought garlic shoots was earlier this year when I was in the Maremma, Tuscany.

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In our Airbnb in Castiglione della Pescaia I cooked them with zucchini and zucchini flowers as a dressing for Pici, the local pasta shape in Tuscany.

 


Back to the lemon salad in Melbourne, Australia:

Some good extra virgin olive oil and salt are a must. The salt brings out the sweetness of the lemon.

So, so good for summer. Think about it accompanying some seafood…BBQ fish? Very good. I took it to my friends place and we had it with a simple roast chicken, a succulent free range chicken.

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I have written about lemon salad before. That post also explains what is a cedro and has a photo of a cedro from a Sicilian market.

LEMON and CEDRO – SICILIAN LEMON SALAD

I shared my recipe with the stall owners. They were excited too.

 

 

RABBIT, CHICKEN, Easter recipes

The last post I wrote on my blog was a recipe about cooking rabbit :

SICILIAN CUNNIGHIU (RABBIT) AS COOKED IN RAGUSA, ‘A PORTUISA

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Looking at my stats for that post indicates that the interest for cooking rabbit must be fashionable at the moment. Is it because we are close to Easter and some in Australia consider rabbit to be a suitable Easter dish?

Chicken recipes seem also to be popular at Easter.

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Not so in Italy.

If Italians are going to cook at home, they are more likely to cook spring produce – lamb or kid, artichokes, spring greens and ricotta is at its best.

If you live in Ragusa, Sicily, you are more likely to have a casual affair with family and friends and eat scacce or impanate – vegetables or vegetables and meat wrapped in oil pastry (see links at bottom of this post).

This is a common Italian saying that seems appropriate for Australia as well.
Natalie con I tuoi, Pasqua con chi voi. 
Christmas with yours (meaning family) and Easter with whom ever you choose.

There are several recipes for cooking rabbit and hare on my blog. There are also recipes for cooking chicken and I have chosen to list the chicken recipes that would be suitable to cook as chicken or to substitute the chicken with rabbit. If you are substituting rabbit for a chicken recipe, cook it for longer and you may need to add more liquid during the cooking process.

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Rabbit and hare recipes:

RABBIT with cloves, cinnamon and red wine (CONIGLIO DA LICODIA EUBEA)

ONE WAY TO COOK RABBIT LIKE A SICILIAN

CONIGLIO A PARTUISA (Braised rabbit as cooked in Ragusa)

HARE OR RABBIT COOKED IN CHOCOLATE. LEPRE O CONIGLIO AL CIOCCOLATO (‘NCICULATTATU IS THE SICILIAN TERM USED)

PAPPARDELLE (PASTA WITH HARE OR GAME RAGÙ)

LEPRE ALLA PIEMONTESE (HARE – SLOW BRAISE PIEDMONTESE STYLE

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Chicken or rabbit recipes:

POLLO OR GALLINA ALLA CONTADINA, ALLA PAESANA – BRAISED CHICKEN WITH OLIVES, SICILIAN STYLE.

POLLO AL GUAZZETTO (SARDINIAN CHICKEN BRAISED WITH SAFFRON)

ITALIAN DRUNKEN CHICKEN – GADDUZZU ‘MBRIACU OR GALLINA IMBRIAGA – DEPENDING ON THE PART OF ITALY YOU COME FROM

POLASTRO IN TECIA – POLLASTRO IN TECCIA IN ITALIAN (CHICKEN COOKED AS IN THE VENETO REGION OF ITALY)

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Easter food, Ragusa, Sicily:

SCACCE and PIZZA and SICILIAN EASTER

SCACCE (focaccia-like stuffed bread)

‘MPANATA (A lamb pie, Easter treat)

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Other Sicilian Easter dishes:

SFINCIONE DI PALERMO (A pizza/focaccia type pie)

EASTER SICILIAN SPECIALTIES …. Cuddura cù ll’ova, Pecorelle Pasquali

RAGU` DI CAPRETTO – Goat/ kid ragout as a dressing for pastaSPEZZATINO DI CAPRETTO

(Italian Goat/ Kid stew)KID/GOAT WITH ALMONDS (SPRING IN SICILY, CAPRETTO CON LE MANDORLE)

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EASTER (Pasqua) in Sicily

PASQUA in Sicilia – EASTER IN SICILY (post 2)

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And if you wish to be in Trieste:

Traditional Easter Sweets in Trieste in Friuli Venezia Giulia

HAPUKA(fish)WITH SICILIAN FLAVOURS

I used Hapuka, but any fish will do.

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The Sicilian flavours are simple – grated lemon peel, lemon juice, anchovies, fresh mint and parsley.

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Once you have pan fried one side of the fish, turn it over, top with the chopped herbs, anchovies cut into small pieces. Wait till the underside is cooked to your liking – do not overlook it as the fish will be flipped on the same side again for a very short time.

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Turn the fish over once again and salt that side slightly and add lemon juice. Evaporate the lemon juice and it is done. The anchovies should have “melted” a bit.

PUMPKIN – Zucca (gialla) – and two Sicilian ways to cook it

A zucca in Italian can be an overgrown zucchino (singular) or a marrow, therefore to differentiate a pumpkin from a marrow a pumpkin is called a zucca gialla (yellow).

Not all Sicilian caponate are made with eggplants. For example there are celery, fennel, potato caponate and pumpkin can also be used as the main ingredient (Caponata di zucca gialla).

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The principle for making any caponata is the same: onion, celery, X ingredient (eggplant or eggplant and peppers, fennel, potato etc.), capers, green olives, sometimes a splash of tomato puree, toasted pine nuts, or almonds and agrodolce –  caramelised sugar and vinegar.

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The ingredients a fried separately. Pumpkin first – sauté and then set aside.

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Sauté onion and celery. Add olives and capers.

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Add sugar, then vinegar and salt to taste. Add the fried pumpkin and toasted almonds (or pine nuts). Let rest overnight or for at least half a day.

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The other popular Sicilian way to cook pumpkin is also in an agrodolce sauce.

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For this recipe, slices of pumpkin are also fried. I bake mine and it is not the traditional way of cooking it. The recipe book you can see in the background  of the photo below is Sicilian Seafood Cooking – now out of print.

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The recipe is called Fegato con sette cannoli. To see the recipe and find out why this recipe is called Liver with seven reeds: 

Sicilian Pumpkin with vinegar, mint, sugar and cinnamon 

Use the search button to find other recipes for making a caponata on my blog.

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PASTA CON LE SARDE, Iconic Sicilian made easy

An important ingredient for making Pasta con le sarde is wild fennel. The season for wild fennel has well and truly passed and all you will find at this time of year are stalky plants, yellow flowers/ seed pods and no green fronds.

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What we call Florentine fennel is also going out of season and you will find  for sale specimens with very small stunted bulbs. If you are lucky, your greengrocer may sell them with long stalks and fronds attached – perfect to use as a substitute for wild fennel and I certainly would not go near these stunted specimens otherwise.

Sardine fillets are easy to find. I use the paper that my fishmonger has wrapped the sardines to wipe dry the fish.

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Remove the small dorsal spine from the fillets. Once again the paper comes in handy to wipe fishy fingers.

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Prepare the ingredients:

Sardine fillets, chopped spring onions, the softer green fonds of the fennel, saffron soaking in a little water, currants soaking in a little water, fennel bulb cut finely, toasted pine nuts and chopped toasted almonds, salt and ground black pepper (or ground chili).

The preferred pasta shape are bucatini, but spaghetti or casarecce are good also.

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You will also need some breadcrumbs (made from good quality day- old bread) toasted in a pan with a little oil. Add a bit of sugar, some cinnamon and grated lemon peel. toss it around in the pan so that the sugar melts and the flavours are mixed. This is the topping for the pasta. I have seen this referred to as pan grattato – this would not be my preferred tag – in Italian pan grattato is the term for plain breadcrumbs, but I accept that over time the terminology has evolved. The traditional Sicilian breadcrumb topping would not have had/ does not have the cinnamon or grated lemon peel.

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The larger fennel fronds and stalks are used to flavour the water for the cooking of the pasta. Place them into salted cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for at least 10 minutes – you can leave the fennel in water as long as you like. The greenery  can easily be fished out with tongs before the pasta goes into the boiling water to cook.

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And  then it is a very simple matter of cooking the ingredients.

Sauté  the spring onion in some extra virgin olive oil.  Add the fennel and chopped fronds and sauté them some more.

Depending on the quality of the fennel (degree of succulence) you may need to add a splash of water or white wine, cover it and continue to cook it for a few minutes more.

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Add salt and pepper and put the sautéed vegetables aside.

Cook the pasta.

Fry the sardines in a little extra virgin olive oil  – they will cook very quickly and begin to break up. Combine the sardines with the cooked fennel, add saffron and  drained currants and mix to amalgamate the flavours. Add the almonds and pine nuts.

Dress the cooked pasta with the sardine sauce.

Put the dressed pasta in a serving platter and sprinkle liberally with the toasted breadcrumbs  – these add flavour and crunch to the dish.

For a more conventional Sicilian Pasta con le Sarde:

PASTA CON LE SARDE, an iconic Sicilian recipe from Palermo. Cooked at Slow Food Festival Melbourne

PASTA CON SARDE – the baked version, Palermo, Sicily

PASTA WITH BREADCRUMBS, anchovies and fennel (Pasta cca muddica)

PASTA CON FINOCCHIO (Pasta and fennel – preferably wild)

LEMON and CEDRO – SICILIAN LEMON SALAD

Citrus fruit is grown extensively in Sicily and citrus groves are found throughout the island region.  Apart from different types of oranges (including the blood oranges) there are mandarins, tangerines, lemons, cedri (citrons) and limette (Sicilian limes).

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Market in Syracuse

Sicily is one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of citrus especially of lemons; the climate fosters a long, growing season and the harvesting of different varieties of lemons over three distinct periods in the year.

Lemons are extensively used in Sicilian cuisine – fresh lemon juice and the rind (or grated zest) are added to savoury or sweet dishes to balance and enhance flavours and even the leaves are often used in between pieces of meat or fish to add flavour.

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Lemon juice is often used in marinates and to avoid discolouration of fresh fruit and vegetables (for example in fruit salads or when cleaning artichokes).

Lemons are used profusely for making drinks, liqueurs, essences, jams and marmalades. Candied or preserved peel is used significantly in Sicilian pastries and confectionary (for example in cassata and cannoli).

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Used also and mostly in Sicilian pastries is cedro (citron). This citrus fruit grows in Sicily ​​(and Calabria); the fruit is large and spherical with a thick wrinkled skin that turns from green to yellow during ripening. It has a strong fragrance and flavour, even stronger than lemons. The thick peel is candied and the fruit and peel is used to make a sweet paste also used in Sicilian patisserie.

Sicily benefits greatly from the production of lemons. Lemons have anti-bactericidal and antiseptic qualities; they are known for their therapeutic properties and are therefore beneficial in aromatherapy, pharmacology and medical and scientific applications. The essential oils are prominent in perfumes and the cosmetic industry. They are also widely used in cleaning products and citric acid (derived from lemons) is used extensively as a preservative.

The flowers and leaves are used for ornamental purposes. The white and pale violet blossoms have a strong and appealing scent and are often used in bride’s bouquets and  inserted in button holes in men’s jackets at weddings.

When Sicilians (and other southern Italians) came to Australia, one of the first thing they planted was a lemon tree. Many are grafted to produce different types of lemons or different citrus.

You may be familiar with making Sicilian orange salads (especially with blood oranges), but you may not have considered enjoying a Sicilian lemon salad. I particularly like serving a lemon salad as an accompaniment to grilled fish, especially sardines. Last time I made one I presented it to accompany a meat terrine made with pork.

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Large lemons, basket below

Lemon Salad

Use large, mature lemons – the  larger, the more pith, the better. Many of the large lemons are more round in shape.

You will be amazed by the sweetness of the lemon in the salad. The use of salt will make the lemons taste sweeter (just like balsamic vinegar brings out the sweetness of strawberries).

Peel the skin off the lemons with a potato peeler, leaving as much pith as possible.
Cut the lemons in half and squeeze out some of the juice (otherwise the salad will be too acidic).
Cut the lemons into quarters and then into slices or manageable chunks (slices cut into four).  Remove any pips.
Add finely chopped parsley or mint.
Dress with extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground pepper and salt.

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LEMON MARMALADE TO USE IN SICILIAN PASTRIES. Conserva/ Marmellata di Limone (o di Cedro)

 

SEA URCHINS – how to clean and eat them (RICCI DI MARE)

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Sea urchins are messy to clean and you may feel cheated when find that not all of them are as endowed of gonads as the others, but they are worth it.

Use scissors and place the sea urchin face up.

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To extract the gonads (this is what we eat), enter through the mouth and cut around the top of the urchin with scissors. Wear thick gloves.

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The gonads of both male and female sea urchins are usually referred to as ‘roe’ or ‘corals’ and they can vary in colour from yellow- orange to light brown.

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Lift off what you have cut and do not be put off by the amount of “black gunk”.

Pour out the black liquid and discard. Use a small coffee spoon or tweezers to extract the roe. Use the tweezers to pluck any residue black matter.

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I like to eat them with a sauce on some bread. It is the same sauce that I use to make Spaghetti con Ricci – Spaghetti with Sea Urchins.

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See:

RICCI DI MARE – Sea Urchins

SPAGHETTI CHI RICCI – SPAGHETTI CON RICCI DI MARE (Spaghetti with sea urchins)

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STUFFED BAKED FENNEL WITH PANGRATTATO – FINOCCHI RIPIENI

Breadcrumbs are called Pangrattato (grated bread) in Italian.

Mollica is the soft part of the bread with crusts removed but in the culinary world both pangrattato and mollica have acquired new significances and have been enhanced. Both refer to breadcrumbs lightly toasted in in olive oil, herbs and seasonings and variations include anything from garlic, red pepper flakes, pine nuts, anchovies, lemon zest , cinnamon or nutmeg, salt and a little sugar.

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Mollica or pangrattato adds texture, fragrance and complex flavours and is usually used as a stuffing or topping, especially for pasta in Calabria, Puglia and Sicily. For example,  Pasta con le Sarde and Sarde a Beccafico are two Sicilian recipes that use enhanced breadcrumbs:

When I make pangrattato I store left overs in a jar in my fridge and use it to enhance other dishes: this time I used it to stuff fennel. For moisture and extra flavour I added  a little ricotta and a little grated cheese – pecorino or parmigiano.

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Cut the stems off the fennel and remove the toughest and usually damaged outer leaves Cut the fennel into quarters.

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Cook the fennel in salted water, bay leaves salt and lemon juice for about 10 minutes until it is slightly softened. Remove it from the liquid and cool.

Make the filling: Work the ricotta in a bowl with a fork, mix in the pangrattato and grated cheese.

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Prise open the leaves of the fennel and stuff with the pangrattato stuffing.

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Place the quarters into a baking bowl that allows them to stay compact and upright (like when you are cooking stuffed artichokes).

Drizzle olive oil on top (or a little butter) and bake at 180 – 190°C for about 15 minutes

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SPAGHETTI with PRAWNS and ZUCCHINI

SPAGHETTI with ‘NDUJA, SQUID, VONGOLE AND PAN GRATTATO

PASTA CON LE SARDE – an iconic Sicilian recipe from Palermo. Cooked at Slow Food Festival Melbourne

PASTA CON SARDE – the baked version, Palermo, Sicily

SARDE A BECCAFICO (Sardines stuffed with currants, pine nuts, sugar and nutmeg)

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MARINADED FISH and a recipe for PESCE IN SAOR

Sousing fish was a way of preserving it before refrigeration by saturating the fish with acid – vinegar in this case which, like salt,  prevents the growth of microbes. Sugar is also added and to create an agro dolce dish (sweet and sour). The fish is first fried in olive oil and then marinaded in the vinegar base. Slowly sautéed onions are a common ingredient in soused fish and different flavourings are added to the pickling mix. My Sicilian grandmother would put mint, bay leaves and slivers of garlic in her vinegar marinade (pisci ammarinatu in Sicilian), but the pesse in saor made in Venice and in Trieste where I lived as a child, has raisins and pine nuts in it. Pesse is Triestiane for pesce – fish in Italian.

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Soused fish is found all over Italy, for example pesce alla scapace is cooked in central and southern Italy and the Molise version is flavoured with saffron, minced garlic and sage. Pesce in carpione from Lombardy has celery and carrot for flavourings, the Ligurian scabeccio has garlic, whole pepper and rosemary, and the Sardinian marinade has chilli, garlic, and tomato sauce.

Soused fish is also common in other cultures – Nordic countries thrive on soused fish and different versions of escabeche are found in Spanish, Portuguese, French and in North African cuisines. I have a German friend who also cooks soused fish – he adds coriander seeds to his.

My maternal grandmother always had soused fish (in pottery terrines and covered with plates as lids) in her kitchen in Sicily.

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When she visited us in Trieste she did the same and our kitchen then also smelt of fish and vinegar. She particularly liked to souse eel – eel was good in Trieste. We would walk to the Pescheria together, she would choose the eel she wanted from a big tank and the fishmonger would kill it and chop it into pieces.

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I did not much like this part, but I liked going to the Pescheria on the waterfront in the bay of Trieste. The imposing building is now home to Eataly.

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Triestine pesse is mostly made with sardines and is often eaten with white polenta (yellow polenta is usually an accompaniment to meat).

Traditionally, the fish is lightly dusted with flour and salt before it is fried in very hot, extra virgin, olive oil. Although the flour helps to hold the fish together, the oil used to fry the fish will need to be discarded (the sediment will taint the taste of the oil) and the flour coating will often come away from the fish in the marinade.

On my way to Adelaide from Melbourne I drove through Meningie (at the northern end of the Coorong on the shores of Lake Albert) and I bought freshly-caught Coorong mullet. On this occasion I used them instead of sardines to make pesse in saor.

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2-3 fish per person /12-16 fresh sardines or small fish (sand whiting, mullet, garfish, flathead, leather jackets), cleaned and filleted with heads and backbone removed.

plain flour and salt for dusting
olive oil for frying
2-3 large white onions, sliced finely
1 cup of raisins
1 cup of pine nuts, toasted
sufficient white wine to soak the raisins
250 ml of white wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

Dust the fish fillets in a little flour and salt, shake off as much flour as possible and fry them in plenty of oil until golden and crisp. Place them on kitchen paper to remove excess oil and set aside.
Soak the raisins in the white wine for about 30minutes.
Sauté the onions gently in some olive oil until they are soft. Add the vinegar and pepper and cook the mixture for a few minutes. Set aside.

Select a terrine deep enough to hold the fish, ingredients and vinegar marinade – a narrow, deep terrine is best. Place a layer of fish, add some onions (dig them out of the vinegar mixture), raisins (drained) and pine nuts. Continue layering the ingredients, finishing with a layer of onions, raisins and pine nuts on top. Pour the vinegar over the layers. Cover it, place it in the fridge and allow to marinate at least 24 hours before serving.  Serve at room temperature.

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See: PISCI ALL’ AGGHIATA – PESCE ALL’AGLIATA (Soused fish with vinegar, garlic and bay)

 

PASTA ALLA NORMA and a variation (Pasta with tomato salsa and fried eggplants… and currants, anchovies and bottarga)

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I recently made Pasta alla norma and although this post was first posted on May 4, 2012 and I am posting it again on 25th April 2018. Ripe tomatoes and eggplants continue into autumn and although the basil may have finished, fresh mint leaves add an interesting fresh taste to the dish. 

Pasta alla Norma is one of those dishes Sicilians are extremely fond of especially in late summer when the tomatoes are ripe, the basil is abundant and the eggplants are at their best. 

There are some summer pasta dishes which call for uncooked, ripe tomatoes and when possible I try not to substitute tinned tomatoes for Pasta alla Norma.

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All it is = a  salsa of fresh tomatoes, short pasta (caserecce are good) and fried eggplants – usually cubed and added to the pasta once it has been dressed with the tomato salsa. Ricotta salata tops it all off.  Easy stuff. Failing ricotta salata, use a strong pecorino cheese… both these cheeses are preferred by Sicilians; parmigiano is the preferred cheese in Northern Italy.

The dish originates from Catania, the city that my mother’s family comes from. Many presume that the dish is named after the opera, La Norma, by the composer Vincenzo Bellini who was born in Catania (1801-1835), but there are others who think that the expression ‘a norma’ (in Sicilian) was commonly used in the early 1900s to describe food that was cooked true to form (i.e. as normal, as it should be) and according to all the rules and regulations specified in the recipe.

I ate a version of Pasta alla Norma in a seafood restaurant in San Leone (on the coast, near Agrigento). The tagliatelle were presented on top of half an eggplant, (that had been cut in half and then fried). The sauce also contained a few currants and a few anchovies, thin slices of bottarga (dry, salted tuna roe) and cubes of ricotta salata on top. It does look very spectacular, but if you intend to do this, and are using a large round eggplant, cut the eggplant horizontally and remove a slice from the centre of it to make it thinner – the eggplant will cook more evenly. Follow the recipe below and to the salsa, add a tablespoon of currants and a couple of chopped anchovies. In Sicily bottarga is salted, cured fish tuna roe rather than bottarga made with grey mullet as common in Sardegna (Sardinia).

INGREDIENTS
I have used casarecce, 500g

eggplants, 500g or more
extra virgin olive oil, 1 ½ cups ( ½ cup for the tomato salsa,1 cup to fry the eggplant) 
garlic, 3 cloves
ripe tomatoes, 1k, peeled and chopped
salt (a little) and freshly ground black pepper to taste
basil, fresh leaves (10-15) some for the salsa and some for decoration
PROCESSES
Remove the stem end of eggplant and without peeling and slice or cut into cubes. I do not usually salt my eggplant; sometimes I briefly soak it in salted water so that the eggplant does not absorb as much oil. Pat-dry the eggplant and fry in 1 cup of olive oil until golden. Drain on paper towels.
Make the tomato salsa: place the tomatoes in the pan with garlic, oil, salt and some basil leaves: cook uncovered on medium heat till it is thick.
Cook pasta and drain.
Mix the pasta with the tomato sauce, place in a large serving bowl and top with the eggplants and the remaining basil (or mint).
Present with grated cheese, preferably ricotta salata.