Friday 8 January 2016

Pasta alla Norma

1 hour prepare minutes to cookServes 4

Casta Diva


Pasta alla Norma is something legendary.
Always present and beloved in Sicily, but certainly not only there, it owes its success to the simplicity of featured flavors, whose combination embodies the taste of Mediterranean summer. Spaghetti, ripe tomatoes, eggplants, olive oil, basil and ricotta salata cheese, nothing more and nothing less, although several recipe versions are available - as it is common for any living myth -.

Disagreements regard both the "right" type of pasta (the dispute is usually between spaghetti and macaroni), and the most suitable cheese to be adopted: the dominant and more traditionalist party allows only ricotta salata on top, but some chefs, more practically, grate pecorino cheese.
The sauce must be a tomato traditional sauce, traditionally sweet as they like it in Sicily, and no further discussion is admitted: only a clove of garlic needs to be added, no onions!
But if you squabble over every ingredient, you may lose sight of the big stars of this dish: eggplants. Eggplants need instead to be treated with care and patience during their preparation because taste comes from them, from their sweetness, from their soft and crunchy consistency...

Are you ready for this vivid and colorful expression of Sicilian gastronomic tradition, for such a triumph of Mediterranean flavors?

Here are ingredients for a 4-serving recipe:


400 g spaghetti pasta
2 eggplants
1 kg ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic
10 basil leaves
200 g ricotta salata cheese
1 teaspoon sugar
1 l seed oil
EVO oil

  1. Wash and dry eggplants, cut off their peduncle. Peel eggplants “half-way”, i.e. peel off alternate strips of skin down the length of the eggplant. Then, slice eggplants about half a centimeter thick
  2. Place eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkle with cooking salt. Top with an upturned plate and place a weight above it (for example, I use the pot full of water in which I will cook pasta), and let them sit for 1 hour
  3. After this time, carefully rinse the eggplants and place them to dry on clean towels. It is quite a boring procedure - I know -, but in this way the excess liquid contained in the vegetables is removed and eggplants will be sweeter and crunchier after cooking
  4. Deep fry eggplants in abundant seed oil until they are nicely browned and soft, without crowding. Remove to a plate covered with paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Then, cut them into into strips and set aside
  5. Meanwhile, put two pots of water to boil and salt them
  6. Use the cooking water of one pot to blanch the tomatoes for a couple of minutes; then peel them and remove their seeds. Pour 4 tablespoons of EVO oil in a pan with 1 clove of garlic; when the clove has colored a little, add the tomatoes and cook over low heat until they become soft
  7. Sieve tomatoes, then put the sauce back in the pan. Cook over low heat for few minutes more, until the tomato sauce thickens, then add the basil, sugar and salt
  8. Cook spaghetti al dente. Drain and pour them into the pan with the tomato sauce. Add the eggplant strips and reheat for 1 minute
  9. Sprinkle spaghetti alla Norma with coarsely shredded ricotta salata cheese and - if you like - few basil leaves. Serve immediately!

Nutrition Facts are detailed in the table below. Data is provided per serving.

"Signora Saridda chista è ‘na vera Norma*"
Legend has it that in 1920, Nino Martoglio, a Sicilian writer, poet and theater director, was so impressed when he first tasted this dish that he compared it to "Norma", Bellini’s opera masterpiece.
And the name lasted ever since.

*Mrs. Saridda, this is a real "Norma"!

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