Pasta alla Norma is a pasta dish I first had in the Sicilian city of Catania. I remember the meal exactly: the table started off with marinated shrimp and salmon, then we had pasta alla Norma, and for our secondi, we had horse. (Horse meat is quite popular in Sicily, so yeah, I tried it.) The restaurant had a fantastic house wine to accompany our meal and left us a whole wedge of ricotta salata so we could cover our pasta in a pristine white cloud of deliciousness.
Can’t I go back?
Pasta alla Norma
1 1/2 cups of dry pasta (You can use any shape, but in my opinion, shorter shapes like farfalle, fusilli, and penne work the best.)
1 can died tomatoes
1 large eggplant
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves of garlic
salt to taste
5 tablespoons sea salt
copious amounts of ricotta salata cheese (This is some-what a speciality cheese, but it can be found in many supermarkets. It is a heavily salted ricotta that has had excess water drained so it is compact and grate-able.)
Start by cutting the eggplant up into small chunks, slightly larger than (gambling) dice. Put in a bowl and cover with salt for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, pat the eggplant cubes dry with a paper towel.
In a large pan, heat 1/4 of a cup of vegetable oil. Once hot, throw in the eggplant. Since eggplant absorb so much oil, you may need to add in more vegetable oil. Cook for around 15 minutes or until eggplant is nice and browned. Transfer cooked eggplant to a baking dish or plate covered with a paper towel to absorb the extra oil.
In a large pot, bring the water for the pasta to a boil. When the water starts to boil, add in sea salt. Add in your pasta. Don’t forget to set a timer for how long the pasta is supposed to cook!
At the same time as your pasta is cooking, you can quickly prepare the tomato sauce. Smash the two cloves of garlic with something heavy. Throw those into a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Let that heat up and once the garlic turns golden, remove it from the oil. Empty the can of died tomatoes into the saucepan with oil and let that simmer for about 7 minutes. Add in the eggplant. Taste for salt, but remember that the ricotta salata, is, as the name implies, salty.
Now, grab any heat resistant container and ladle in about one cup of the boiling, salted water that the pasta is cooking in. Then strain the pasta once it has cooked for ONE MINUTE LESS than the cooking time stated on the box. (i.e. If the box says 10 minutes, let it cook for 9.) Then, put the pasta back in the large pot and combine with the sauce. Quickly put the pot back on the burner and cook for another minute while stirring all the time. (If you notice the pasta is absorbing lots of sauce and sticking to the bottom of the pot, you can now add small amounts of the cooking water I told you to put aside.)
Serve the pasta into dishes and grate, baby, grate that ricotta salata over the top. Top with basil and enjoy this typical Sicilian pasta.
This recipe should amply serve two. I paired this with a 2013 Anthilia from the Sicilian winemaker Donnafugata to keep with the Sicilian theme! Please, please try this recipe because it is so delicious and pretty easy, and if you do, let me know how you like it!