When asked why it’s called pasta alla Norma, be ready with your own story or say it was named after Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini’s opera of the same name because it was thought to be just as perfectly delicious.–Cal Peternell
LC Roasted Not Fried Please Note
We’ve tried a lot of pasta alla Norma recipes in our day, and we gotta say, after making this one, our search ends. Interestingly, this is the only recipe we’ve seen that roasts the eggplant rather than fries it, and we think that makes all the difference. See, as you’re probably well aware, the trick with eggplant, as our recipe tester Melissa Maedgan notes, is that it “absorbs oil like a sponge, and 1/2 cup oil can disappear into one’s pasta sauce only to magically reappear later on one’s waistline.” Not only that, but if eggplant is allowed to soak up oil to its heart’s content, the resulting dish just tastes heavy and unbalanced. Thanks to this amazing and easy recipe, we’ll never make pasta alla Norma any other way again.
Pasta alla Norma Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 1 H
- Serves 4 to 6
- 1 large eggplant (1 to 1 1/2 pounds)
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for tossing
- Sea salt
- 2 or 3 large ripe tomatoes (about 12 ounces or 350 grams)
- 1 pound rigatoni or fettuccine
- 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 bunch basil, leaves only, very roughly chopped (about 1 packed cup)
- About 2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves
- About 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 scant cup ricotta salata, crumbled or coarsely grated, optional
- Parmesan cheese
- 1. Heat the oven to 425°F (218°C).
- 2. Using a vegetable peeler or a paring knife, peel some of the skin from the eggplant in stripes (it’s nice to have some, but not all, of the eggplant skin in the final pasta dish). Cut the eggplant into 1-inch dice, toss it on a rimmed baking sheet with oil and salt, and roast until browned and very tender, about 20 minutes. The eggplant is done when you can easily squish a cube with your finger and it has a nice, creamy texture; undercooked eggplant can have a less appealing, cottony feel.
- 3. Bring a big pot of cold salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring frequently, according to the package instructions.
- 4. If you’re in a hurry, cut the tomatoes into large dice about the size of, well, dice. Don’t bother removing the skins and seeds. If you have a moment to intensify the flavor of your tomatoes, remove their skins and seeds and dice them, then place the diced tomatoes in a colander, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and let sit for 10 minutes.
- 5. Warm a large skillet over low heat and add the 4 tablespoons oil. Toss in the garlic and crushed red pepper and stir a bit. Add the basil and a sprinkle of salt, raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the basil is dark green and wilted, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes, sprinkle with the salt (if you haven’t already), and cook until the tomatoes barely lose their rawness, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted eggplant and let the sauce simmer gently until the pasta is ready.
- 6. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup pasta cooking water. Toss the drained pasta with the sauce, the mint, and the parsley, tasting and adjusting the seasoning if necessary. If the mixture seems dry, add some pasta cooking water, a little at a time. Toss in the ricotta salata, if using. Pass the Parmesan to grate.
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Pasta alla Norma Recipe © 2014 Cal Peternell. Photo © 2014 Ed Anderson. All rights reserved.
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