Behind every great pasta is a great sauce, whether a simple oil, garlic and chilies or a complex carbonara with egg, pancetta, parmigiano reggiano, or pasta and broccoli, or fettuccine with mushrooms. The fact remains that pasta is great food if prepared properly. Three key points to a good pasta: great products, attention to cooking times, and a passion to cook. For us pasta is a great dish when you have had a busy day and you want to make something quick and easy yet healthy and delicious.
The pasta I have prepared tonight is my version of Pasta alla Norma, a classic regional italian dish, from Sicily to be precise, that I made with Rigatoni pasta and a nice tomato sauce with a slight kick to it and a beautiful sautéed diced eggplant and crispy fried eggplant on top. The key to this dish is to use a ricotta salata, a salted ricotta cheese, instead of the parmigiano, that you shave, or crumble like I did, on top. It is going to melt in the sauce and become a delicious cream. I tried to be very close to the original recipe, because you know, when it comes to classics, in Italy they’re pretty serious.
Various textures make this dish delectable. Again I went shopping to the Italian Center Shop to pick up key ingredients like San marzano tomatoes, ricotta salata which you could only find there, and fresh basil. The eggplant I had bought at the Old Strathcona Farmers Market. When these two team up the possibilities are endless.
Pasta alla Norma: tangy, slightly spicy with the soft distinct hint of eggplant and the saltiness of the ricotta. What more can I say except try it and have fun making it.
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- 1 medium eggplant
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 of a dried chili pepper
- 1 can San Marzano D.O.P. tomatoes
- extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 300 grams of good quality Italian rigatoni pasta
- 2 leaves of fresh basil
- ricotta salata shaved on top
- In a sauté pan drizzle olive oil to cover bottom of pan. Add cloves of garlic and crushed chilies.
- Puree tomatoes in a small food processor and pour into pan.
- Break up basil leaves, add salt and pepper to taste and put into pan, partially cover and let simmer till thickened about 30 minutes.
- While the sauce is simmering cut about 50 percent of the eggplant and dice, set aside the other 40 percent for use later.
- Heat some more olive oil in another sauté pan and sauté eggplant, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook till softened and add to tomato sauce.
- Bring a pot of water to boil around 8 cups of water, add pasta and cook approximately 12 minutes or to the product suggested cook time and remember you can taste the pasta to make sure it’s al dente.
- Take the eggplant you set aside and cut very thin slices diameter wise, heat olive oil in a sauté pan and put in eggplant and fry till crispy and golden brown.
- Take pasta and toss in tomato sauce and plate.
- Put a bit of the fried eggplant chips on top and finish with some crumbled or shaved ricotta salata.
- If you want you can also drizzle a little olive oil on top and add some basil leaves for decoration.
- Now its ready to serve and eat.
- Serving Size: 4 portions
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