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Sicilian Pasta alla Norma

Updated May 14, 2020
Sicilian Pasta alla Norma
Sicilian Pasta alla Norma

This is the queen of all Sicilian recipes, beloved by grown-ups and kids alike. According to the legend, this pasta recipe was SO good, it deserved to be named for the opera Norma by the great Italian compositor Vincenzo Bellini.

Tomatoes, eggplant, basil and ricotta salata—which translates to “salty aged ricotta,” normally available online or at any Italian deli or large stores—are the few simple and inexpensive ingredients you need to make the classic Norma. It’s a super easy and satisfying meal, perfect for busy weekdays or to please a large and hungry crowd.

Serves4

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 cup + 1 tbsp (240 ml + 15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 5 whole canned plum tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) warm water
  • 4 basil leaves, divided
  • A pinch of brown sugar
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 12 ounces (350 g) spaghetti or short pasta, such as penne
  • 3 tablespoons (45 g) grated ricotta salata cheese

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

  2. Finely cube the eggplant, and pat the cubes dry with paper towels.

  3. Heat 1 cup (240 ml) of extra-virgin olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant in a single layer, and fry it until it’s crispy and golden on both sides, about 4 minutes in total. Remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon and arrange the cubes in a single layer on a dish covered with paper towels. Dab the cubes with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

  4. Slice the tomatoes in half, and remove the seeds. Heat a large pan with the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of extra-virgin olive oil and the garlic over medium heat. Fold in the tomatoes and stir-fry them for 5 minutes. Stir in the warm water, 2 basil leaves and the pinch of sugar, cover with a lid and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Discard the garlic, and season the sauce with sea salt and black pepper to taste.

  5. Lightly salt the boiling water, and add the pasta. Cook until al dente, according to package directions, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta. Add it to the pan with the tomato sauce, followed by the fried eggplant cubes and the remaining basil leaves.

  6. Stir all the ingredients together and sprinkle the ricotta salata all over the pasta.

Tip: If you can’t find ricotta salata, substitute with classic Parmesan cheese.

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