For the tomato sauce:
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the
olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, cook
until soft, and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until
the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and
bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer
for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with
salt and serve. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator
or up to 6 months in the freezer.
For the pasta dish:
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons salt.
Meanwhile, in a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons
of the olive oil over medium heat until almost smoking.
Working in batches, sauté the eggplant cubes, seasoning
them with salt and pepper, turning once, until golden
brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate lined with paper
towels to drain.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9- by
12-inch baking dish with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
Cook the penne in the boiling water until 2 minutes
short of the package instructions. Drain and shock the
pasta in ice water for 2 minutes. Drain the pasta very
well, place in a mixing bowl and toss with 1 cup of
Cover the bottom of the baking dish with 1⁄4 cup of
the tomato sauce. Top the tomato sauce with half the
breadcrumbs and then add half the cooked and sauced
pasta, then half of the eggplant cubes, arranged in a layer.
Dot about 1⁄4 cup of the tomato sauce over, and top with
half the grated Pecorino and half of the torn basil leaves.
Repeat the process with the pasta, then the eggplant, dot
with the remaining tomato sauce, then the cheese and
basil. Sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs, sprinkle
the Mozzarella cubes evenly and drizzle with the remaining
2 tablespoons olive oil.
Bake for 45 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes before
serving. Place a generous portion on each plate, grate
Ricotta Salata over and serve.