Recipe of the week: pasta alla Norma

The scents and flavors of Sicily, a magical and magnetic land, sunny and beautiful from north to south and from west to east. This recipe, pasta alla Norma, one of the symbols of Sicilian cuisine, along with cannoli, comes from the East. This Catanese specialty was created as a culinary tribute to the most beautiful opera by the famous composer Vincenzo Bellini: La Norma.

A tasty pasta dish topped with fresh tomatoes and a cascade of fried eggplant. But it wouldn’t be pasta alla Norma without the addition of fresh basil leaves and a generous grating of salted ricotta added at the end of cooking: all the flavors of the Mediterranean in a single dish!

Pasta alla Norma is a dish with a unique and enveloping taste, a vegetarian dish, prepared with simple and authentic ingredients as Sicilian mothers, grandmothers and aunts still do: a real explosion of flavors, taste after taste. Meat lovers, meanwhile, can try chicken alla Norma, an unusual and appetizing twist on this traditional dish.

Ingredients

  • Pasta “Sedani Rigati” 320 g
  • Salted ricotta 200 g
  • Eggplants 500g
  • Extra virgin olive oil 1 thread
  • Garlic 2 cloves
  • Peppered tomatoes 850 g
  • Fresh basil 10 g
  • Fine salt to taste

FOR FRYING

  • Extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

To prepare the pasta alla Norma, take the auburn tomatoes and rinse them, then dry them and cut them into wedges. In a heavy-bottomed pan, pour a little oil and sauté two cloves of garlic, cleaned and whole, so that you can remove them if you wish. When the garlic has fried for a few moments, add the tomatoes and cook over very low heat, covering with a lid; cook for about twenty minutes until the tomatoes are tender and have released their sauce. Once they are ready, transfer them to a food mill placed over a bowl and mash them to obtain a juicy and smooth pulp.

Put everything back in the saucepan and add the salt; cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until the mixture is reduced. Then put a pot with plenty of water to boil and once it comes to a boil, add the salt. During this time, wash the aubergines, dry them well and pat them dry, then cut them into slices of a few mm.

If you’re using commercially available eggplants, it won’t be necessary to purge them unless you know the ones you’re using are quite bitter. Fry the eggplants in a large quantity of extra-virgin olive oil heated to a temperature of 170° without exceeding it (keep the temperature constant by frying a few eggplants at a time and checking it with a kitchen thermometer) . When they turn golden, drain them with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a sheet of frying paper to absorb the excess oil. Then salt to taste.

Cook the pasta al dente and when almost ready, pour the basil leaves into the sauce, remove from the heat, stir and add the drained pasta directly to the pan. Stir well to season.

Transfer the pasta to serving plates, dress each serving with generous slices of fried eggplant, and finally sprinkle with salted ricotta using a coarse-mesh grater. Serve your pasta alla Norma with a few slices of aubergine placed in the center of the table so that, if necessary, guests can add them at will!

Tips

You can remove the garlic cloves before puréeing the tomatoes. You can add eggplant to the ready-made sauce if you prefer, depending on which version of pasta alla Norma you like! Pasta that is suitable for this preparation is short pasta such as celery rigati, rigatoni or mezze maniche.

Storage

It is advisable to consume pasta à la Norma immediately. Freezing is not recommended.

Bon appetite!

Anna Grasso

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