- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound 80-percent-lean ground beef
- Salt and pepper
- 1 medium firm eggplant (about 1 1/4 lbs.), peeled and finely chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 sprig fresh oregano, leaves stripped and finely chopped, or 1 tsp. (about 1/3 palmful) dried
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (a scant 1/2 palmful) fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon (a scant 1/3 palmful) crushed red pepper
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- About 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup chicken or beef stock
- 1 can (28 oz.) San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 pound large rigatoni
- EVOO for drizzling, to serve
- Grated ricotta salata or dollops of fresh ricotta, to mix in, or freshly grated Pecorino Romano, to serve
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
Preheat a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high to high.
Add the olive oil to the skillet, two turns of the pan. Add the beef; cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up with a spoon, until browned, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the eggplant, garlic, oregano, fennel seeds and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring often, until the eggplant is softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring often, until absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and tomatoes and their juices, crushing the tomatoes with your hands as you add them. Reduce the heat to medium-low; let simmer at a low bubble while cooking the pasta.
Salt the boiling water, add the pasta and cook until almost al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the ragu along with half the starchy water. Toss until the pasta is al dente, about 1 minute. Season; add more starchy water if too dry. Top with EVOO and cheese and serve from the skillet into shallow bowls.