It’s amusing to contemplate how much taste is inextricably linked to texture, and the best illustration of this is pasta. Although most pastas are made from the same ingredients, their various shapes will determine the character of the dish they’re in. The ingredients in two sauces can be identical, yet if one is served with angel hair pasta and one is served with ziti, the two dishes will taste different. With a robust sauce such as this one with eggplant, garlic, and hot pepper, short, thick pasta is a good match. I love these penne for their quill shape.

SERVES 4

1 pound penne

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium to large eggplant (about 1ВЅ pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

Вј teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

35-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

ВЅ teaspoon salt

Liberal seasoning freshly ground pepper

1ВЅ tablespoons minced fresh parsley

  1. Set all of the ingredients in front of you near the stove.
  2. Bring a large (6-to 8-quart) pot of water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until al dente, about 12 to 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, to begin the sauce, in a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add half of the eggplant and cook until almost tender. Toss frequently and do not add any more oil; just keep tossing if the eggplant begins to stick. When done remove onto a platter. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil and repeat with the remaining eggplant.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes, tossing frequently.
  5. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Add the eggplant and cook until the sauce has thickened and the eggplant is tender, about 7 to 10 minutes. Keep the sauce hot over low heat if the pasta is not done yet.
  6. Drain the pasta in a colander. Return it to the pot or a warm serving bowl and add the sauce. Toss. Add the parsley and toss again. Serve immediately with a bowl of grated Parmesan cheese to pass at the table.