2 medium eggplants, washed and cut into ¼-inch rounds
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil for the sauce, plus more for frying the eggplant
1 28-ounce can peeled plum tomatoes, puréed
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for salting the eggplant
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces ricotta salata, grated
1 pound rigatoni
Basil leaves for garnish
Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant with salt and place in a colander. Cover with paper towels and a heavy object such as another can, or two, of tomatoes. Let stand for an hour to allow the bitterness to drain out of the eggplant.
In a large skillet over medium heat sauté the onion in ¼ cup olive oil until the onion is golden. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper, lower the heat and cook until reduced by about a third. In another pan, fry the eggplant in up to 1 inch of olive oil until golden. As an alternative, coat the eggplant in olive oil and bake in a 400ºF oven until golden, making sure to turn regularly. Either way, place the fried eggplant on paper towels to drain and keep warm.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Cook the rigatoni until al dente (about 2 minutes less than the package directions), drain, and add to a large serving bowl. Add a ladle of sauce and mix in 1/2 of the grated ricotta.
Serve immediately in individual bowls, covered with more sauce and 4-5 pieces of eggplant. Top with the remaining ricotta and a basil leaf.