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Pasta alla Norma – Sicilian-style Eggplant and Tomato Pasta

Pasta alla Norma – Sicilian-style Eggplant and Tomato Pasta

Pasta alla Norma is one family favorite, both because we are all crazy for eggplants and because it fits this season so well. Yes, and of course Italians love pasta. A cliché maybe, but that’s so true! I mean, who doesn’t love pasta after all?


So, a big classic of Italian cuisine, or better, Sicilian cuisine – Pasta alla Norma, which is also one of those debated recipes on which everyone has radically different ideas and beliefs. Let me tell you the truth, this is  a sort of minefield! Out of curiosity, I researched opinions on different websites and people get really fierce and shocked  for the minimum variation on the procedure, or on the type of tomatoes or pasta shape.

pasta alla norma- eggplant and tomato pasta

I recently discovered there are some people who never eat it with spaghetti! We are not talking about Bolognese sauce here, so excluding spaghetti in toto looks a little bit exaggerated, if you ask me.  Briefly, even I feel a little intimidated by all this confusion, I have decided to give my insight on Pasta alla Norma, because if there is something on which we all agree, is that it is a delicious recipe that will make your taste buds jump and rejoy.

So which is the pasta shape you should use? Tradition apparently calls for short pasta,  like maccheroni or penne rigate, but nobody’s gonna bite you if you use caserecce or even spaghettoni! In this case, I am sure everyone should use the pasta they prefer.  And what about eggplants? They’re the queen of this recipe and their preparation is crucial. Here I agree with the ones who  don’t appreciate the “lighter” versions that include grilling the eggplant, because frying it is the essence and the heart of this dish. I love pasta with grilled eggplants, but ain’t no Norma, folks.  I know frying is not ideal and I rarely fry myself, but I am more than willing to make an exception. It doesn’t have to be all the time, so I spare it for weekends, when I indulge in a treat or two (or three, or four).

pasta alla norma- eggplant and tomato pasta

Let’s keep going , onion or garlic ? Even here I saw contrasting advice, but what can I say, I love both, so once I make it with onion and the other time with garlic, or I even mix them, depending on the mood. Concerning cheese, ricotta salata is a big yes, and I put it a little bit in the sauce – don’t do it if you don’t like the mixed flavors – and the rest on top.  Ricotta salata is a very special kind of ricotta, it is  a dry, firm cheese that you can grate. I also discovered some Sicilians use ricotta infornata, but we never used it in our family. If you try it with that, let me know how is it 🙂 And, little curiosity, the sprinkle of ricotta salata is a representation of the snow on the mount Etna. Beautiful image, isn’t it?

Why Pasta alla Norma?

Pasta alla Norma is a very much loved and famous dish from my beloved Sicily, precisely from Catania.  There are two different stories about the origin of the name, which is linked beyond any doubts to the famous opera lirica Norma by composer Vincenzo Bellini. According to one story, the playwright Nino Martoglio once compared the exceptional taste of this dish to the grandiosity of Bellini’s opera, exclaiming” Chista è ‘na vera Norma ( this is a real Norma!)! An alternative story reports that Bellini himself was used to often eat this pasta in a restaurant while writing the Norma, and that the owner in the end named it after him as a tribute.

And so, this is my tribute to this wonderful region, where my mom was born, and I already apologize if my Norma is different than yours 🙂

 

pasta alla norma- eggplant and tomato pasta

Pasta alla Norma – Sicilian-style Eggplant Tomato Pasta

Ingredients (for 2 people)

1 medium eggplant
2  tbsp kosher salt (1 for the eggplant and 1 for the cooking water)
1 tsp table salt for the tomato sauce
1 clove garlic (or 1 /2 onion)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil + additional oil to fry the eggplants
14 oz (400 gr.) whole tomatoes, crushed
2 oz  (70 gr.) ricotta salata
7 oz (200 gr.) penne rigate (or pasta of your choice)
a handful basil leaves

Method:

Wash the eggplant, cut it in slices of 5 mm (0,20 in), and put in a colander. Sprinkle the slices with kosher salt, cover them with a plate and with something heavy to press and let rest for 40 minutes. In the meantime, grate the ricotta cheese.

pasta alla norma- eggplant and tomato pasta

 

In a large frying pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil with the garlic, then add the tomatoes, table salt and let cook  at medium heat for around 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Rinse the eggplant slices and dry them carefully using paper towels. Deep fry in abundant olive oil until golden. Remove the slices from the pan with a slotted spoon, and remove excess oil using paper towels. Set aside.

pasta alla norma- eggplant and tomato pasta

pasta alla norma- eggplant and tomato pasta

 

Cook pasta in  abundant boiling and salty water until al dente, then drain it. While pasta is cooking, I add part of the ricotta salata, half of the eggplant slices and half of the basil leaves to the tomato sauce (off heat).

pasta alla norma- eggplant and tomato pasta

Add pasta to the tomato sauce and toss well to combine (it’s always better to save some of the cooking water in case of need).

Transfer to a serving plate and add the rest of the eggplant and the ricotta on top and conclude by garnishing with the last basil leaves…

…and enjoy this big Italian classic! My advice: if you love pasta, check as well my Carbonara recipe and my classic spaghetti al pomodoro!

 

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Pasta alla Norma - Sicilian-style Eggplant and Tomato Pasta

2017-06-05
: 2
: 30 min
: 20 min
: 50 min
: easy

The famous Sicilian eggplant and tomato pasta, enriched with ricotta salata and basil leaves for a dish full of flavour!

By:

Ingredients
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt (1 for the eggplant and 1 for the cooking water)
  • 1 tsp table salt for the tomato sauce
  • 1 clove garlic (or 1 /2 onion)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil + additional oil to fry the eggplants
  • 14 oz (400 gr.) whole tomatoes, crushed
  • 2 oz (70 gr.) ricotta salata
  • 7 oz (200 gr.) penne rigate (or pasta of your choice)
  • a handful basil leaves
Directions
  • Step 1 Wash the eggplant, cut it in slices of 5 mm (0,20 in), and put in a colander.
  • Step 2 Sprinkle the slices with kosher salt, cover them with a plate and with something heavy to press and let rest for 40 minutes.
  • Step 3 In the meantime, grate the ricotta cheese.
  • Step 4 In a large frying pan, heat olive oil with the garlic, then add the tomatoes, table salt and let cook at medium heat for around 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.
  • Step 5 In the meantime, rinse the eggplants and dry them carefully using paper towels.
  • Step 6 Deep fry the eggplants in abundant olive oil until golden.
  • Step 7 Remove the slices from the pan with a slotted spoon, and remove excess oil using paper towels. Set aside.
  • Step 8 Cook pasta in abundant boiling and salty water until al dente, then drain it.
  • Step 9 While pasta is cooking, add part of the ricotta salata, half of the eggplant slices and half of the basil leaves to the tomato sauce (off heat).
  • Step 10 Add pasta to the tomato sauce and toss well to combine (it’s always better to save some of the cooking water in case of need).
  • Step 11 Transfer to a serving plate and add the rest of the eggplant and the ricotta on top and conclude by garnishing with the last basil leaves.

 

 

 

 



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