Pasta alla Norma – Sicilian Pasta Sauce Recipe
“Pasta alla Norma” is a classic Italian recipe from the city of Catania on the island of Sicily. It is a vegetarian dish made with eggplant and often tossed with penne pasta.
It is served with ricotta salata, which is a varation of ricotta that has been pressed, salted and dried. Some like to shave or grate it into dishes, but I have always preferred it cubed. It looks beautiful for presentation, and it makes me look forward to each bite! If you can’t find ricotta salata at your local grocery store, you can subsitute smoked mozzarella.
Keep reading for the recipe…
Many eggplant dishes will ask that you salt and drain the eggplant before continuing with the recipe preparation. This process pulls out juices from the eggplant that carry bitter flavors and it collapses the air pockets in the spongy flesh of the eggplant. This helps prevent the eggplant from absorbing too much oil while cooking, resulting in a greasy final product.
All you have to do is toss the eggplant with salt and let it sit in a colander for at least 15 minutes. I like to weigh it down with a heavy plate or bowl. The salt draws out some of the moisture from the eggplant and you can see it accumulate below the colander. Before moving on in the recipe, be sure to pat the eggplant dry.
Pasta Alla Norma
2 cups cubed eggplant
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (feel free to adjust depending on how hot or mild you like your sauce!)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups canned Italian chopped tomatoes, or 1 box Pomi Chopped Tomatoes (26 ounces)
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 pound penne pasta
6 ounces ricotta salata, cubed
1. Place the eggplant in a colander, sprinkle it with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; mix well, cover with a weighted plate and let drain for about 15 minutes. Pat the eggplant cubes dry.
2. Bring salted water to a boil for the pasta. While the water is heating, pour the oil in a large nonstick pan set on high heat and heat until the oil starts to ripple. Add the eggplant, cook for 2 minutes, then add the oregano, stir and cook for another minute. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper, and cook another minute. Stir in the diced tomatoes, and basil; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Cook the pasta in the boiling water according to package directions until al dente. Drain, return to pan, and add the sauce. Toss until well coated and cook for 2 minutes. Turn off heat, add cheese, and toss well. Serves 4-6.
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