Traditional Pasta Alla Norma recipe... from an Italian!
A symbol of Catania, a tribute to the work of the composer Bellini: the Pasta Alla Norma.
Today I chose this dish because, some time ago, I proposed a survey on the favourite pasta dish of the Foodtribe public. Obviously, Lasagna was the winner – and I agree entirely – but I was amazed to see Pasta alla Norma in the last place. Seriously? It can't be!
So today I went to my mother, and she (who is a better cook than me) prepared her version for me... and for you.
La Pasta Alla Norma
Pasta Alla Norma is one of the symbols of Sicilian cuisine, in particular in the city of Catania. This speciality was created in homage to the most beautiful work of the famous composer Vincenzo Bellini: the Norma.
It is a tasty pasta dish, vegetarian and prepared with simple and genuine ingredients, seasoned with fried tomato and eggplant (aubergine), fresh basil and a generous grating of salted ricotta.
La ricotta salata
We need some more information on the cheese... Dried ricotta, also called salted ricotta or seasoned ricotta (ricotta salata in Italian), is a variety of ricotta produced in southern Italy, and differs from fresh ricotta for being harder, with a more marked flavour and consistency.
Commercial dried ricotta is mainly produced with sheep's milk and is used instead of grated cheese such as Parmesan.
I don't know where you are reading from right now, and I realise that it could be hard to find this specific cheese in your country, but it is crucial: Pasta Alla Norma does not taste the same without it.
- 350gr short pasta
- 200gr salted ricotta
- 500gr eggplants
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 850gr ripe tomatoes (pomodori ramati maturi)
- 10gr fresh basil
- Salt to taste
- TO FRY: extra virgin olive oil to taste
- Wash, dry and cut the tomatoes into small pieces. In a saucepan, pour a drizzle of oil and fry two clean and whole cloves of garlic, so you can easily remove them. When the garlic has fried for a few moments, pour in the tomatoes.
- Cook over a low heat and cover with the lid. Leave to cook for about twenty minutes until the tomatoes are soft and have released their juice. Once ready, strain them to obtain a juicy and smooth pulp. Transfer everything back to the pan and add salt. Cook again for 10-15 minutes until the sauce has reduced.
- Meanwhile, wash the aubergines/eggplants, dry them thoroughly, then cut some of them into slices a few millimeters thick, and others into small cubes. If you use aubergines commonly on the market, there will be no need to bleed (clean, drain) them, unless you know that the ones you are using are slightly bitter.
- Fry the aubergines in abundant amounts of extra virgin olive oil heated to a temperature of 170°, but no higher (keep the temperature constant by frying a few aubergines at a time and checking it with a kitchen thermometer). As they turn out to be golden brown, drain them with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a sheet of kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil. Then salt them to taste.
- Put a pan of water on the heat. Once boiling, add a small amount of salt.
- Cook the pasta al dente.
- Over a low heat in the pan with the sauce: add the basil leaves into the sauce, add only the aubergine cubes (leave the slices aside), and add a little ricotta. Add the drained pasta directly into the pan. Mix well.
- Transfer the pasta to the serving dishes, season with abundant slices of fried aubergines, then sprinkle with coarsely grated salted ricotta.
- Enjoy your Pasta Alla Norma!
Attention: the salted ricotta is REALLY salty. Don't put too much salt in the pasta water.
P.s. I'm sorry if I can't translate some technical terms or kitchen tool names well. I hope you still understand!