Pasta alla Norma – this Sicilian classic brings together pasta, tomatoes, and chunks of roasted eggplant.
The secret to making a decadent pasta alla Norma lies in following an authentic recipe from Italy, cooking it the way that nonna used to. That means paying attention to each ingredient.
Head to your favourite markets and take your time to select each ingredient – rich Italian tomatoes, small eggplants with bright thin skins, and of course the ricotta salata (salty ricotta). The traditional dish is with maccheroni pasta, but any short pasta will do – we also recommend selecting a shape that can easily hold the rich sugo sauce, such as penne or rigatoni.
As with most Southern Italian cuisine, simple is best. Just make sure you’ve found high quality ingredients and it is hard to go wrong. Fry the eggplant as the dish intends, although grilled eggplant will still work, it simply won't be the same.
We recommend cutting up your eggplants according to the recipe, and then laying them out with a sprinkle of coarse salt for at least half an hour. This let’s them drain and significantly reduces the presence of any bitter flavors. Rinse off the eggplant and then pat dry so it’s ready for cooking (you want to avoid placing wet eggplant into oil to prevent oil splatters).
Best enjoyed in the company of friends.
- 400g dried short pasta (like macaroni, fusilli, frigate, rigatoni, or penne)
- 400g eggplant
- 400g can peeled or chopped roma or san marzano tomatoes
- 100ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 150g freshly grated ricotta salata
- 3 cloves of garlic
- salt flakes and ground black pepper
- basil leaves to serve
- Chop the eggplant into rough 2cm chunks. Place into a colander in the sink, sprinkle with sea salt to draw out the moisture, then set aside for around 20 minutes.
- Peel and finely slice the garlic.
- Rinse the eggplant and pat dry with kitchen paper, then place into a large bowl with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Toss together well.
- Drizzle a splash of olive oil into a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once hot, add the eggplant in a single layer, and fry for 5 to 8 minutes, or until softened and golden, stirring occasionally – you may need to do this in batches.
- Add another splash of olive oil, followed by the garlic, then cook for a further 2 minutes, or until golden.
- Stir in the tomatoes, breaking them up with the back of a spoon and season with salt and pepper. Reduce to a heat low, and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes, or until thick and glossy.
- Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Drop in your pasta of choice and stir well. Cook until almost al dente (soft enough to eat, but still have a bit of bite and firmness to it).
- Using a slotted spoon, lift the pasta straight into the pan with the sauce, dragging a little extra splash of the cooking water to loosen, if needed. Toss well to coat every single bit of pasta.
- Divide between bowls, top with the basil and lashings of ricotta salata.
Recipe courtesy of Eataly