If you look up umami in the dictionary, there’s a picture of this dish. Between the eggplant, tomato, fish sauce, and cured meat, that savory depth of flavor hits you from all sides.
- 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1½ pounds globe eggplants (about 2 small), cut into ½-inch pieces
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 12 slices thin country ham or prosciutto (about 3 ounces)
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1–2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ cup store-bought tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
- 12 ounces linguine or spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1½ ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup)
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Heat 3 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high. Add half of eggplant, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until browned and tender, 5–8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Repeat with 3 Tbsp. oil and remaining eggplant. Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil over medium in same skillet and add ham, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add chiles, cocoa powder, and tomato paste, stirring to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until tomato paste has turned a dark brick red and cocoa powder smells toasty, about 3 minutes.
Add tomato sauce, reserved eggplant, and 1 cup water, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened and flavors have melded, 25–30 minutes. Add fish sauce and season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.
Add pasta to pot with sauce along with butter and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Bring to a simmer and cook, tossing frequently, until a thick glossy sauce forms and coats pasta, adding more cooking liquid as needed. Divide among bowls and top with Parmesan and parsley.
Do Ahead: Ragù can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.