Pasta alla Norma (Eggplant and Tomato Pasta)

September 2, 2014

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.

Serves: 4


  • 1 large eggplant (or 2 finger eggplants)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and squashed
  • One 14-ounce (400 grams) can of chopped tomatoes
  • 11 ounces (320 grams) rigatoni, penne, or maccheroncini pasta
  • 3 ounces (80 grams) grated ricotta salata
  • 8 to 10 basil leaves, torn
In This Recipe


  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 salt generously over the eggplant and let sit for at least 30 minutes (but better 2 hours). Rinse the salt off and pat the eggplant slices completely dry with paper towels. Deep fry the eggplant in about an inch of olive oil until golden. Remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon and drain the excess oil on paper towels. Set aside until needed.
  2. In the meantime, prepare a simple tomato sauce by gently heating 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Sauté the garlic cloves until fragrant but not colored. Add the tomato (it will spit and sizzle, watch out!) and about 1/2 cup of water, and season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Towards the end, add the basil leaves and the fried eggplant. Remove from the heat.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a heavy pinch of salt and cook the pasta until al dente. 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 gentle heat, until the pasta is well coated. Serve immediately, sprinkled with grated cheese.

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Reviews (18) Questions (0)

18 Reviews

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.<br />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
Jacqui<br /><br />Any reason not to use fresh tomatoes?
Author Comment
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.
Author Comment
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.
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.
Author Comment
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.
Author Comment
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?