1 1/2 cups chicken stock
A good pinch of saffron threads (about 24 threads)
1 medium size firm eggplant (a little over a pound or so in weight)
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon fennel pollen or fennel seed (1/3 palmful)
Salt and pepper
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
1 small onion, grated or very finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
1/2 Italian red cherry or Fresno chili pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound short-cut pasta, whatever shape you like
Pecorino Romano cheese
Place the chicken stock and saffron threads in a small pot. Bring to a simmer to infuse and concentrate the flavor.
Meanwhile, peel half the skin off the eggplant. Dice very finely into 1/8-inch pieces. Sprinkle with salt and reserve.
Place a large pot of water over high heat for the pasta.
Heat the EVOO, three turns of the pan, over medium to medium-high heat. Add the pork and lightly brown while finely crumbling it into tiny bits. Season with fennel, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, thyme and a little chili pepper.
Squeeze any liquid from the eggplant, then stir it into the pork. Cook for about 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently until the eggplant is tender. Deglaze with white wine, stir a minute then add the reduced saffon-infused stock, about 1 cup. Stir in the cream and simmer over low heat while the pasta cooks.
Cook the pasta to al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup starchy cooking liquid, then drain and toss the pasta with the sauce, adding the liquid as necessary to combine. Toss for 1-2 minutes.
Serve in shallow bowls topped with freshly grated Pecorino Romano and a bit more thyme for garnish.