Pasta alla Norma (Eggplant and Tomato Pasta)

June 10, 2021
3 Ratings
  • Prep time 40 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This dish, one of Sicily's most famous, is named after Bellini's 19th-century opera, Norma, which is widely considered the composer's best achievement. The final—and most essential—touch to Pasta alla Norma is a dusting of salted ricotta (ricotta salata). If you can't find ricotta salata, you can use Parmesan or caciocavallo—but purists will point out that the flavor substitution isn't authentic.

Don't skimp when salting and frying the eggplant—the result is a wonderful sauce with a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture. —Emiko

Test Kitchen Notes

If you have some eggplant to use up, why not deep-fry it! That's what this amazing recipe is for, after all. This hearty pasta dish is a Sicilian classic that you may find yourself reaching for on every Meatless Monday. It's a nice alternative to eggplant Parmesan, if that's one of your favorites. With creamy fried eggplant slices, a simple yet savory homemade tomato sauce that comes together in minutes, and the must-have topping of grated ricotta salata (which is made from sheep's milk and is less creamy and a bit more salty than ricotta), your friends and family will be clamoring for more whenever you make this wonderful pasta. If you don't want to deep-fry, you can shallow-fry in a skillet or even roast the eggplant in the oven for a different twist on this recipe. Just be sure not to skip the salting step, as your eggplant can easily get soggy, and you want to draw out as much moisture as possible before cooking.

This recipe is super-generous as well if you want to stray from the go-to preparation. Feeling like a little heat? Throw in some crushed red pepper flakes. Got an onion to use up? Caramelize it before softening the garlic. Fresh parsley may add even more depth of flavor to the basil, or go a little wild and try some mint too. And if tomatoes are in season, lucky you! Finely chop the fresh tomatoes (no need to peel) and use those instead of the canned variety. —The Editors

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Pasta alla Norma (Eggplant and Tomato Pasta)
  • 1 large eggplant (or 2 finger eggplants)
  • Kosher salt
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 (14-ounce; 400 grams) can chopped tomatoes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 11 ounces (320 grams) rigatoni, penne, or maccheroncini
  • 3 ounces (80 grams) grated ricotta salata
  • 8 to 10 basil leaves, torn
  1. Cut the eggplant into 1/3-inch (1-centimeter) slices. If you're using a large eggplant, you may want to cut these in half too. Sprinkle the salt generously over the eggplant and let sit for at least 30 minutes (but better for up to 2 hours). Rinse the salt off and pat the eggplant slices completely dry with paper towels.
  2. Into a large, heavy, deep-sided skillet or Dutch oven, pour the oil until it comes about 1 inch up the sides. Heat over medium-high until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375°F. Fry the eggplant, turning once, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant to paper towels to drain the excess oil. Set aside.
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Cook the garlic, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until fragrant but not colored. Add the tomatoes (it will spit and sizzle, watch out!) and about 1/2 cup of water; season with salt and pepper. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Toward the end of the cook time, stir in the basil and the fried eggplant. Remove from the heat.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a heavy pinch of salt and cook the pasta, stirring occasionally, according to the package directions. Drain the pasta, saving a little of the cooking water if you need to loosen the sauce slightly, and add the pasta to the warm tomato sauce. Toss over low heat until the pasta is well coated. Sprinkle with the cheese.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cheryl
  • Shannon Kreisel
    Shannon Kreisel
  • lydia.sugarman
  • Sini | My Blue&White Kitchen
    Sini | My Blue&White Kitchen
  • Emiko

22 Reviews

Koi July 27, 2022
This was good! I deep fried the eggplant in a Dutch oven as instructed. It had a beautiful unctuous texture. But I’ll be honest…I made a different pasta dish a week prior with cubed eggplant sautéed in plenty of oil, and the eggplant was equally good that time. I may stick to sautéeing in the future just to save a pot. I think the eggplant absorbs the same amount of oil both ways.
Cheryl September 16, 2020
I wanted to take advantage of the abundance of eggplant now. I think I used about 4 eggplants for this recipe and loved having more in it. I baked the slices at 400 after brushing with a good amount of olive oil. Used chickpea pasta for extra protein and I made it vegan by using this recipe for cashew and nutritional yeast "parmesan" . Very happy!
Shannon K. August 26, 2019
Such a perfect way to use the late August produce! I roast the eggplant because I am unreasonably frustrated by frying and is perfectly silky and delicious - I did it with lost of olive oil and salt to try and keep things similar!
Callara September 15, 2015
I make a similar dish from my city of Teramo. I dice the( Best the Sicilians) eggplant and saute' with mushrooms, chopped black olives and one lbs of hot Jimmy dean sausage (Shredded with a fork) . Add small can of tomato sauce and 2 normal cans of diced tomato . Cook for one hour.
Serve with rigattoni or penne rigate. This is my (Remo De Luca ) special
Judith R. September 13, 2014
Baked at 400 degrees until tender, about 5 to 10 minutes depending on thickness. Brushed lightly with olive oil first.
breadwhisperer September 13, 2014
Made it last night - delicious! My market was all out of ricotta salata, so I just substituted a mild feta made from sheep and goat milk. (It was dry enough to grate.) Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe!!!
lydia.sugarman September 11, 2014
What about brushing the eggplant slices with olive oil and baking, instead of deep frying? Same results?
lydia.sugarman September 11, 2014
Oops, missed the earlier comments.
Jacqui B. September 10, 2014

Any reason not to use fresh tomatoes?
Emiko September 10, 2014
You could certainly use fresh tomatoes too in place of the tinned tomatoes, though tinned tomatoes make a perfectly delicious (if not richer) sauce in a pinch. If using fresh, blanch the tomatoes first to peel the skins off, remove the seeds with a spoon and then chop the flesh. Use about 2 pounds for this recipe and cook them down with some water for at least an hour, even two (the longer the better!).
Denise September 9, 2014
Shouldn't the eggplant be peeled? I usually find that the skin becomes inedible after frying because it is so tough. I peel the eggplant from top to bottom, leaving thin strips of skin, for aesthetic reasons, and to keep the slices from falling apart. Omit the pasta, add sauteed onions to the sauce, and layer the eggplant in a casserole with the sauce, basil and cheese. Serve cold with a good Italian bread. Delicious.
Emiko September 9, 2014
No need to peel the eggplant - I've never seen this done for this dish and actually never had a problem with tough skin from frying. On the contrary, the eggplant becomes so soft and creamy when fried. It also adds nice colour contrast in the final dish! Perhaps try using small eggplants - this is often made with finger eggplants and cut into thin rounds.
Heather L. September 10, 2014
Hey Denise. We're talking about this recipe; not your "Eggplant Salad"
Denise September 10, 2014
What a nice person you are! Thanks!
kfles September 10, 2014
Heather, please chill. This is a community-oriented website and we treat each other with respect. I noticed that you're a new member--you'll find that in the comments we all chat about other recipes all the time, other ways of doing things, substitutions, etc. It's all about creating a crowd-sourced base of information that is open and accessible to everyone. Welcome to the best food community on the interwebs! Enjoy :)
Heather L. September 11, 2014
I'm so sorry! I thought I was defending the original recipe developer! Woops! I guess I erred. Will not happen again. Please know that my comment had the best intentions.
Gloria R. July 28, 2020
I used a very fresh large eggplant. The peel became very bitter znd tough, and I had to cut it off. Maybe using smaller, Asian style eggplant would work better with the peel. Otherwise a delicious recipe!
Sini |. September 9, 2014
Pasta alla Norma - one of the greatest pasta dishes! I've never deep fried the eggplant but am eager to try this recipe.
Emiko September 9, 2014
Frying it is always the way Sicilians will do this dish - it makes the eggplant deliciously creamy!
Judith R. September 9, 2014
I've made this by baking instead of frying the eggplant and it is still delicious.
Emiko September 9, 2014
Good idea, though less traditional, certainly a less messy option!
Lesley September 11, 2014
How long did you bake it for and at what temp?