With this week’s recipe we are going back to Sicily and to its Ricotta! Pasta alla Norma is one of those recipes that every Italian, but not only, should learn to prepare, no matter if one is from the south or north of Italy.
This incredibly satisfying pasta is made with deep fried eggplant (which makes this dish super luscious ;-)), fresh tomato sauce, basil leaves and the final touch of ricotta salata cheese.
Just to satisfy your and our curiosity we conducted a quick research about the name of this recipe. Pasta alla Norma comes from Catania, a city sitting at the foot of Mt. Etna on the eastern coast of Sicily. It was the hometown of Vincenzo Bellini, an Italian opera composer, well known for one of his most famous operas, Norma, the lead character of the opera.
Nino Martoglio, a famous playwright from Catania, upon tasting the dish, exclaimed, “Chista è ‘na vera Norma!” (Sicilian dialect), comparing the dish to the masterpiece of Vincenzo Bellini. That was a great compliment for the chef who made it!
Pasta alla Norma
|Preparation Time: 15 min||Cooking Time: 30 min|
|TOTAL TIME: |
- 320 g ( 12 oz) pasta (penne, fusilli, sedani rigati, small paccheri)
- 1 medium size eggplant
- 700 g (25 oz) ripe fresh tomatoes to make sauce (alternatively 17 oz- 500 g tomato puree )
- 100 g (1 cup) grated ricotta salata cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano, to taste
- 2 – 3 tbsp EVO oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- fresh basil leaves, to taste
- Oil to fry
- Remove the stalk from the eggplant, cut it lengthwise into 4 parts and slice each part into thin slices about a few millimetres thick.
- Pour the oil into a frying pot, and put on a high heat (we suggest to use a small deep pot). The best oil to fry is EVO oil, or any other oil with a high smoke point. The oil has to be hot (180 °C). If you can’t measure the temperature try to put a small piece of bread into the oil, and if it starts bubbling then the oil has reached the right temperature. Use a lot of oil to fry the eggplants, which have to float into it.
- Fry the eggplant slices until golden brown on both sides (about 1-2 min). Then put the slices on the kitchen blotting paper to remove the extra oil.
- Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil.
- Remove the stems from the tomatoes, cut a shallow “X” at the bottom of each one.
- When the water is boiling, drop the tomatoes into it and cook for about 5 minutes.
- With a skimmer pull them off and let them dry in a colander. Remove the skin.
- With an immersion blender, blend them until creamy.
- In a frying pan pour EVO oil, add peeled and lightly crushed garlic cloves. Let them brown for a few seconds and then add the tomato sauce and some basil leaves.
- Cook for about 15 minutes over medium heat. Finally season with salt and a few more fresh basil leaves. Remove garlic from the sauce.
- Fill a big pot with water and bring to a boil. When it is boiling add salt (about 20 g, or 3.5 tsp, for 3 lt of water). Cook the pasta in the boiling water according to the package directions, until al dente.
- Drain the pasta and place them into tomato sauce, stir well until the pasta is well coated with the sauce.
- Distribuite the pasta into 4 serving plates, then add fried eggplant. Complete with grated ricotta salata cheese and fresh basil.