Pasta alla Norma
You’ve got to love a pasta whose popularity earned itself a national day of recognition. Pasta alla Norma is celebrated on September 23 but in my house, we pledge our loyalty to this Sicilian dish many times throughout the year.
While my parent's summer garden always featured exceptional eggplant, this vegetable was never combined with pasta. It wasn’t until a visit to Puglia in 1994 that I was introduced to this famous dish by my sister-in-law. In fact, my husband and I still remember that first taste at the restaurant. Creamy, fragrant, rustic, and satisfying, we both draw on that memory often!
There are certainly many variations but the most authentic ones maintain fresh eggplants, tomatoes, basil, and ricotta salata. My version changes depending on what I have available but I do not stray too far from the original. After all, when something is simply perfect, why mess around with Sicilian traditions?
- ⅓ cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1 large Italian eggplant cut into ½” cubes
- 3 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 2 finger peppers or crushed pepper flakes to taste
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 400ml can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes crushed
- Sea salt to taste
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Fresh basil leaves torn
- 1 500g box good quality pasta
- 1 cup Friulano Cheese cubed
- 250 g fresh ricotta
- Parmigiano Reggiano freshly grated
Heat oil slowly in a large saute pan and add eggplant. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Saute until lightly golden on all sides.
Then stir in garlic and hot pepper and cook for another minute. Do not burn the garlic.
Add tomatoes with juices to eggplant mixture and stir lightly. Cook for about 15 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Add basil. Season with more salt.
Set large pot of water to boil. Salt and cook pasta according to directions on package.
Once almost cooked, lift pasta from water with spider and add to simmering eggplant tomato mixture.
Add a little of the pasta water.
Toss over high heat for a few minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened and absorbed by pasta. Remove the hot pepper if you like.
Add cubed cheese and stir lightly.
Serve in large bowl.
Add ricotta and use a fork to break it up over the surface. Add ricotta and use a fork to break it up over the surface. Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano.
Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano.
Drizzle with more oil and serve hot.
- Do not peel eggplant. Fresh eggplants will not require salting and draining prior to cooking.
- Rigatoni are traditional but you can use any thick-cut pasta.
- Ricotta salata is lovely but I prefer the creamy mild taste of fresh ricotta.
- Replace the canned tomatoes with garden-fresh ripe tomatoes if available. Be sure to peel and seed as much as possible.
- Although not traditional, I like to add cubed Friulano cheese. You can substitute any mild creamy cheese.