Serves 4
Preparation time 30 mins to 1 hour
Cooking time 10 to 30 mins

2 large aubergines
500g/1lb 2oz small tomatoes, or good quality canned plum tomatoes, drained of juice
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8 tsp salt
400g/14oz dried spaghetti
4 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ teaspoon crushed dried chillies
large handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
100g/3½oz ricotta salata, finely grated (or feta cheese, crumbled)
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Cut off the tops and bases of each aubergine and cut across into two. Cut each piece lengthways into sticks (about the size of chips).

2. Place into a colander and sprinkle them with one teaspoon of salt. Place the colander over a bowl and leave the aubergines for 30-40 minutes to disgorge some of their juices.

3. Meanwhile, if using fresh tomatoes, squeeze the tomatoes over the sink to get rid of most of their juices. (Discard the seeds and juice.)

4. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and set aside.

5. Pat the aubergines dry with kitchen paper to remove the salt and excess juices.

6. Heat four tablespoons of the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add half the aubergine pieces and fry, turning occasionally, until golden-brown all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and place onto a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain. Add the remaining aubergine pieces and fry and drain as before.

7. Remove the pan from the heat to allow the oil remaining in the frying pan to cool (if you were to add the garlic now, it would burn).

8. Place 4.5 litres/8 pints water into a large pan and bring to the boil. Add the salt, then the spaghetti and cook according to packet instructions, or until al dente.

9. Shortly before the spaghetti is ready, add the remaining olive oil and the garlic to the frying pan and return it to the heat. As soon as the garlic begins to sizzle, add the crushed chillies and the tomatoes and cook over a high heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomatoes have broken down into a sauce.

10. Add the aubergines and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

11. Drain the cooked spaghetti and add to the sauce.

12. Add the basil and half of the ricotta salata or feta and mix well.

13. To serve, spoon equal portions of the spaghetti and sauce into four warmed bowls and sprinkle each with the remaining cheese.