Eggplants are a key ingredient in Sicilian cooking and in Pasta alla Norma they are the star of the show. Top this simple pasta dish with ricotta salata before serving for the perfect vegetarian pasta dish!
Pasta alla Norma is the perfect vegetarian dinner for someone who doesn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen. With just a few simple ingredients you have a complete dinner ready in about 30 minutes! I love the color purple and it was definitely not difficult to be inspired when I purchased these eggplants last week.
I don’t usually find Chinese eggplant in my local grocery store and I usually stick to Italian eggplant when I make this dish. But these were too beautiful to pass up. Just look at that gorgeous colour! So I decided why not use Chinese eggplant in my Pasta alla Norma.
Origins of Pasta alla Norma:
Pasta alla Norma is a classic Sicilian dish. What makes this dish Sicilian and why this name? The name was inspired by a famous opera entitled “La Norma”, composed Vincenzo Bellini who was from Catania.
In Sicily, the eggplant reigns supreme and you’ll find endless eggplant dishes in Sicilian cuisine. Here are a few of my favorites, to name just a few:
I could go on and on!
How to make Pasta alla Norma:
This recipe consists of very few ingredients, however as in all Italian recipes, it is of upmost importance to get the best quality and freshest ingredients you can find. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Eggplant: Italian eggplant with a dark purple skin and bulbous shape is typically used. You’ll notice I did not remove the skin. In this recipe I used Chinese eggplant.
- Garlic; canned Italian plum tomatoes and red pepper flakes for the sauce.
- Ricotta salata: is basically ricotta which has been pressed, salted and aged and therefore has a much tangier, saltier flavor compared to plain fresh ricotta. Pasta alla Norma must absolutely be served with salted ricotta rather than parmigiano cheese, otherwise it just isn’t Pasta alla Norma! You can find ricotta salata in any Italian grocery store.
- Good quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil for garnishing.
- As for the pasta, I prefer rigatoni or any other short pasta, such as penne rigate, which tends to adhere to the sauce much better. But of course, it would be just as good even if you prefer spaghetti.
Prepare the eggplant:
I prefer oven roasting my eggplant rather than frying. It is easy, fuss free and I like how the eggplant browns evenly in the oven when tossed with plenty of olive oil and salt. While the eggplant bakes (about 30 minutes) I use this time to prepare the sauce and begin cooking the pasta so the whole meal comes together easily.
Prepare the tomato sauce:
Begin by lightly sauteing a clove of garlic in olive oil. Add the canned plum tomatoes which have been crushed by hand to break them down and red pepper flakes. Let the sauce simmer while the eggplant is baking.
While the sauce simmers, cook your pasta until al dente. Combine the prepared tomato eggplant with the pasta and stir. Top with freshly chopped basil.
And finally, don’t forget to serve your Pasta alla Norma with plenty of freshly grated ricotta salata. You’ll notice I didn’t provide any quantity of cheese in my recipe and that’s because there’s no limit! Just pass the ricotta salata and the cheese grater around the table and let everyone help themselves.
Is there anything more satisfying than a heaping bowl of pasta for dinner? Please share with me photos of your Pasta alla Norma by tagging me with #mangiabedda or @mangiabedda on Facebook or Instagram. And feel free to Pin the recipe for later! Buon appetito!
- 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 eggplants approximately 1 1/2 lbs, cut into 1-inch cubes
- salt to taste
- red pepper flakes optional
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 can whole Italian tomatoes 796 ml.
- 450 grams rigatoni or pasta of your choice
- handful fresh basil leaves chopped coarsely
- freshly grated ricotta salata for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Toss eggplant cubes with 3 tbsp of olive oil, salt lightly and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the eggplants are golden and tender.
- In a large skillet, heat the remaining tbsp. of olive oil and add garlic. Using your fingers, crush the tomatoes into small pieces, add to the skillet and bring to a boil. Season with salt and red pepper flakes (if using) and simmer while the eggplant cooks, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and cook pasta until al dente.
- Add the roasted eggplant to the sauce and stir to combine. Simmer on very low heat until the pasta is ready.
- Add the cooked pasta to the pan with the eggplant sauce and stir to combine. Garnish with chopped basil leaves.
- Serve with grated ricotta salata.
- Please note that the nutritional information provided is approximate and may vary according to exact ingredients used and portion size.