Salt and pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (use less if using meat)
2 tablespoons diced pancetta or bacon (optional)
1/2 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
1 small-to-medium eggplant, about 6 ounces, in 1/2- to 1-inch chunks
10 oz. spaghetti or linguine
3 small or 1 medium-large tomato, cored, seeded and in 1/2- to 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon thinly sliced garlic
Chopped fresh basil or parsley for garnish.
1. Set a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put half the oil in a large skillet and turn heat to medium-high. Cook meat, if you are using it, stirring occasionally, until just about crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add bread crumbs and cook, stirring almost constantly, until nicely browned, 3 to 5 minutes; season them with a bit of salt and pepper as they cook. Remove with a slotted spoon and add remaining oil.
2. Cook eggplant, stirring occasionally and seasoning with salt and pepper, until browned and tender, about 15 minutes. When it is done, begin cooking pasta. Add tomatoes and garlic to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 10 minutes. By this time, pasta will be just about tender; when it is, drain it.
3. Toss pasta with eggplant-tomato mixture, bread crumbs and meat, if you used it. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnish, and serve