- Prep Time
- 1 pound cavatelli or cavatappi pasta
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 2 pinches saffron threads or saffron powder
- 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (eyeball it)
- 3/4 pound ground pork
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 - 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 pinches crushed red pepper (eyeball it)
- 1 eggplant, peeled and cut into small dice (I leave on half the skinI like the color and texture it gives the dish)
- 3 - 4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more to pass around the table
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente (5 to 7 minutes for frozen; 12 to 14 minutes for dried). Set aside a ladle of pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta.
While the pasta is working, in a large, deep skillet, heat 3 tablespoons EVOO, 3 turns of the pan, the saffron and the fennel seeds over medium-high heat. Add the pork, crumbling it into bits with a wooden spoon, and cook until browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, the garlic and crushed red pepper.
Push the meat to the side of the pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the eggplant to the center of the pan; season with salt. Cook the eggplant, stirring, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Combine with the meat. Add the thyme and toss, then stir in the broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the cream and reduce the heat to low. Adjust the seasonings.
Stir the pasta into the sauce and toss with 1/2 cup cheese until combined, adding the reserved pasta cooking water to loosen if needed. Pass more cheese around the table.