One of Sicily’s signature dishes is “Pasta alla Norma,” a pasta dish with tomato sauce, eggplant, and salted ricotta. There is more than one account of how it got it’s name, but most tie it to the opera “Norma” composed by the Italian Vincenzo Bellini (Bellini, like the pasta dish, hailed from Catania).
You can make the dish with almost any type of pasta. Here we’ve used casarecce. Although it traditionally calls for grated ricotta salata (a dried, salted ricotta), you can substitute parmesan in a pinch, or an Italian pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese if you can’t find the salted ricotta. Of course, the best place to learn to make it (and to taste it) is in Sicily itself, which you can do on one of our wonderful cooking vacations in Sicily!
Casarecce alla Norma
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Cook method: fry
- 1 large eggplant (roughly 250 gr)
- 300 ml tomato sauce
- 2 T shredded dried ricotta cheese
- Oil for frying
- Olive oil to add to pasta
- 200 gr Casarecce pasta
- Fresh basil leaf
1. Cut the eggplant in small cubes. Sprinkle them with salt and set aside for about 15 minutes. The salt will take out some of the bitterness. Rinse the eggplant well in cold water, then pat dry thoroughly with a towel.
2. Heat oil for frying on medium high, and deep fry the eggplant until golden brown. This should take about 10 minutes. Occasionally stir the eggplant, so that all sides are browned.
3. In the meantime, prepare also the tomato sauce with a simple sauté of onions and garlic in olive oil, then adding tomato pulp.
4. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until very al dente (about 2 minutes under what the instructions say).
Cook in Elegant Taormina on the eastern coast of Sicily.
5. Heat the tomato sauce in a pan, adding some olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Drain the pasta, reserving about a half cup of the pasta water, and add the pasta and reserved water to the sauce in the pan and mix together.
6. Cover the pan and let simmer for 2 or 3 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked and the sauce has been mostly absorbed.
7. Plate the pasta, top with some of the fried eggplant, and sprinkle with the dried ricotta cheese and a bit of fresh basil.
Interested in more pasta recipes? Try these dishes from our cooking vacations in Italy:
- Pici Pasta from Cooking under the Tuscan Sun
- Homemade Ravioli from Cook in the Heart of Chianti
- Umbricelli Pasta with Black Truffle” from A Food Lover’s Paradise in Norcia
By Peg Kern
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