Pasta alla norma

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This very popular pasta dish hails from eastern Sicily. Compositor Vincenzo Bellini (1801–1835) is one of Catania’s most famous sons and many places in the city are named for him. His most famous opera is Norma from which the instantly recognizable Casta Diva comes, and which achieved instant success in Milan. The pasta, invented in Catania had the same success, someone tasting it said: ‘Wow, this dish is a real Norma!’.

At its heart, Pasta alla Norma features tender, perfectly cooked pasta -typically macaroni or rigatoni- luxuriously coated in a rich, savory tomato sauce. The sauce itself is a harmony of ripe tomatoes, fragrantly sautéed garlic, and a hint of basil, offering a fresh and aromatic base to the dish. However, what truly sets Pasta alla Norma apart are the golden, fried slices or cubes of eggplant, which are seamlessly integrated into the pasta, imbuing it with a delightful texture and depth of flavor. 

The masterpiece is then crowned with a generous sprinkling of salty, grated ricotta salata cheese, adding a final touch of indulgence to this simple yet sophisticated dish. Some variations might also include a sprinkle of fresh basil leaves on top, enhancing the vibrant Mediterranean flavors.

Pasta alla Norma is not just a dish; it’s a celebration of Sicilian cuisine, showcasing the island’s bountiful produce from the sun-kissed tomatoes and aromatic basil to the creamy ricotta and lush eggplants. It’s a testament to the simplicity of Italian cooking, where quality ingredients, treated with respect and care, come together to create a dish that’s much more than the sum of its parts.

Ingredients (serves 4 people)
2 Large aubergines
4 Chopped tomatoes
1 Clove garlic
A bunch of basil
Extra virgin olive oil
100gr Grated salted ricotta cheese
500gr Maccheroni pasta

Cut the aubergines into small cubes and fry until golden brown in olive oil. Take out and place on kitchen paper to remove some of the oil.

Dip the garlic in some olive oil, add the tomatoes, tear in some of the basil and season to taste. Stir well and leave to cook slowly with a lid on for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the sauce is almost ready, cook your pasta, drain and add to the tomato sauce. Mix well and place in a serving bowl. Top with the chunks of aubergine and a few torn basil leaves and take to the table with another bowl of grated salted ricotta cheese.

Buon appetito!