First, prepare the eggplant. Place a colander in the sink, add the eggplant, and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Toss. This little trick will help draw out the moisture in the eggplant. Let sit for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, rinse well and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a rolling boil.
Heat a large high-sided skillet over medium heat, and pour in 2 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the sausage and fry until golden on all sides, about 5 minutes. The sausage will not be completely cooked at this point but will finish in the tomato sauce. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pan.
Working in batches as necessary, add the eggplant to the pan and fry, stirring every few minutes, until golden brown on all sides, about 5 - 8 minutes.
Add the garlic, basil stems, and chili flakes, and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the oregano, capers, tomato paste, and cook 1 more minute, then add the vinegar, lemon zest, and tomatoes, and season with a nice pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in the browned sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until thick and glorious, about 20 minutes.
While the eggplant sauce is bubbling away, cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving ½ cup of cooking liquid, and set aside.
Transfer the pasta and reserved cooking liquid into the eggplant saucepan, then toss with the pecorino and minced basil until everything is coated in deliciousness. Plate up individual, hearty portions of your beautiful Pasta Alla Norma, then top each with extra cheese, fresh basil, and a crack or 2 of fresh pepper. Serve immediately.