Pasta alla Norma (Eggplant and Tomato Pasta)

By Emiko
September 2, 2014
18 Comments


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

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
  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 Comments

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!).