Pasta, Pizza, Risotto, Vegan/Vegetarian

Pasta alla Norma, an Italian Classic

Loreto August 18, 2020

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Pasta alla Norma, an Italian classic.  Beautifully seared eggplant meets a rich sweet tomato sauce playing in the folds of a wonderful Pennoni pasta! Furthermore, add a grating of ricotta salata, totally delectable and exquisite!

Song of the day: “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5.

Pasta alla Norma-two plates

[This post was first published in March 2015. It has been updated for photos and writeup].

Behind every great pasta is a great sauce, whether a simple oil, garlic, and chilies or a more complex Carbonara or pasta and broccoli, how about fettuccine with mushrooms, the end results is always fabulous. In addition, the fact remains that pasta is a great food if prepared properly.

 

Key points to great pasta

Three key points to a good pasta:

  1. Firstly, use good quality products.
  2. Secondly, pay attention to cooking times.
  3. Lastly, have a passion for what you do and cook with lots of love.

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.

To the South of Italy………

The pasta I have prepared tonight is my version of Pasta alla Norma, a classic regional Italian dish, from Sicily to be precise.  I used Pennoni, a big-size penne pasta, and a nice tomato sauce with a slight kick to it and a beautiful seared sliced eggplant, keeping some out of the sauce for garnish because we Italians like to highlight ingredients!

Cheese glorious cheese……….

The key to this dish is to use a ricotta salata, a salted ricotta cheese, instead of the Parmigiano, that you shave, or crumble, 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 Pasta alla Norma, it is a classic, consequently, a pretty serious business.

Pasta alla Norma-ingredients

The beauty of freshness and quality………

I love this picture above. It is like the ingredients are talking to me enticing me to get cooking. Look at the eggplant and those tomatoes, don’t they look so beautiful. I can’t wait to get started!

The joy of shopping…….

I went shopping at the Italian Center Shop to pick up key ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes, ricotta salata similar to feta but not so acidic and pungent. Also picked up some fresh basil, just because. The eggplant and garlic I picked up at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market. The olive oil we always have on hand along with some nice dried chilies. When these ingredients team up the end result is always spectacular! 

Pasta alla Norma-sauce eggplant ricotta

Time to get cooking!……..

  1. Firstly we have to get that sauce simmering. Easy breezy: a splash of olive oil, some chili flakes, and garlic. Heat on and that oil gets all flavored up. In go the tomatoes that a break apart with my hands and furthermore with a potato masher and finish with some basil torn up, salt and pepper. A low simmer and the sauce is on its way!
  2. Secondly, have to cut up the eggplant. I peel it first then cut it into rounds 1/2 cm thick, adding an additional cut in half  creating two half circles. Olive oil in a pan and I sear these babies, in two batches, as not to crowd the pan, until golden and a slight char. While that is happening I grate some of the ricotta salata.
  3. Lastly, the lovely cooked eggplant goes into the sauce that has thickened and become so sweet and rich. Oh, save some of the cooked eggplant for garnish! Look how lovely that eggplant looks so lovingly bathed by the tomato sauce.

It’s pasta time………

A good size pot of salted water boiling on the stovetop and in goes our pasta. Always look at the cooking time on the package, however, don’t take that as the absolute. Taste the pasta when close to the end cooking time. It always should be al dente meaning a slight crunch! This really highlights the flavor of the pasta!

As for the pasta shapes, traditionally only “pasta corta” (short pasta) is allowed for Pasta alla Norma. Think rigatoni, sedani, mezze maniche, maccheroni, penne/pennoni.

Quasi pronto!…….

Quasi pronto means almost ready in Italian. It is now that we really feel our hunger elevate and consequently a symphony of stirring and groans coming from our stomach! 

Our pasta is cooked, we mixed it in the sauce with eggplant. Now the only thing left is to plate and let’s step up the pace because I am super hungry!

Mangia, mangia!

The aroma coming off this dish and the kitchen transport me back to Italy. I love Sunday mornings in a small town. You hear the clanking of spoons and dishes, however, there is something even better, the aroma of all that good food cooking! It is a total heavenly experience. One that I hold in my heart deeply! Oh, by the way, for those of you that don’t know what mangia mangia means, it is EAT! EAT! Lol.

Now back to the Pasta alla Norma, an Italian classic!  Talk about working together, that rich sauce with a nice subtle spicy hit pairs so well with the sweetness and caramelized flavor of the eggplant. The ricotta salata offers a beautiful balance of acidity and with each bite, the craving for more gets even stronger!

Final thoughts………………….

One thing for sure, the Italian culture is really about food! These dishes are a deep-rooted memory into our past and respected today. Steeped in flavor and texture, they are great dishes to bring to the lunch or dinner table, so why not make tonight Italian and serve up some plates of this Pasta alla Norma, an Italian classic.

Good eats.

Pasta alla Norma-bowl with fork

Buon appetito!

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Pasta alla Norma-two plates

Pasta alla Norma

  • Author: Loreto and Nicoletta
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: serves 2 with leftovers 1x
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

Pasta alla Norma, an Italian classic.  Beautifully seared eggplant meets a rich sweet tomato sauce playing in the folds of a wonderful Pennoni pasta! Furthermore, a grating of ricotta salata, totally delectable and exquisite!


Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 12 cloves garlic
  • Pinch of dried chili flakes (peperoncino)
  • 1/2 large can San Marzano D.O.P. tomatoes (about 350400 g)
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 250 g good quality Italian “short” pasta (rigatoni, maccheroni, penne, pennoni)
  • 34 leaves of fresh basil, also for garnish
  • ricotta salata, grated or crumbled

Instructions

  1. In a sauté pan drizzle olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Add cloves of garlic and crushed chilies. Saute for 1 minute.
  2. Squeeze tomatoes in the pan and pour in the juice. You can puree them in a food processor if you want. I also use a potato masher to finish breaking them up.
  3. Break up basil leaves, add salt and pepper to taste and put into the pan, partially cover, and let simmer till thickened about 20 minutes.
  4. While the sauce is simmering, peel and cut the eggplant into 1/2 cm thick rounds, then those rounds in half creating two half circles. Continue this until the eggplant is all cut up.
  5. Heat some more olive oil in another sauté pan and sauté eggplant, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook till golden and a slight char on the edges. Add to the sauce, setting aside about a third for garnishing.
  6. Bring a pot of salted water to boil, add pasta, and cook according to the product suggested time (remember you can taste the pasta to make sure it’s al dente).
  7. Take the pasta and toss in tomato sauce and plate.
  8. Put a bit of the seared eggplant you set aside on top and finish with some grated ricotta salata.
  9. If you want you can also drizzle a little olive oil on top and add some basil leaves for decoration.

Now it’s ready to serve and eat.


Notes

When frying the eggplant slices just put enough eggplant in the pant to fill the bottom. Don’t pile them all in you won’t get that nice caramelization and color.

You could grill the eggplant slices or bake them in the oven. It won’t be traditional, but healthier.

If you want you can puree the tomatoes in a food processor until somewhat smooth.

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Pasta alla Norma-forkful

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22 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply Chef Dennis August 31, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    It’s been ages since I’ve had Pasta all Norma. Thanks for the reminder I’m adding it on my list to make this week.

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto September 10, 2020 at 7:07 am

      Your so welcome Chef Dennis, after all we are all her to remind and inspire! Enjoy the pasta!
      Cheers!

  • Avatar
    Reply Gloria August 31, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    Well if it has pasta, I’m in. I am Ukrainian but I swear there must be some Italian in me too. I am a pasta fanatic, and could eat it every day.

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto September 10, 2020 at 7:06 am

      I think our European backgrounds are very similar. My mom had Ukrainian friends and they would always get together to make thousands of perogies. It was beautiful to experience. I am with you on the pasta thing. I am always in for pasta! Thank you for sharing!
      Cheers!

  • Avatar
    Reply Kathryn Donangelo September 1, 2020 at 9:31 am

    This is one of our new favorite pasta dishes! SO delicious and I especially loved the ricotta on top! YUM!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto September 10, 2020 at 7:02 am

      Hi Kathryn, yes that ricotta is perfect on top.Because it is cured differently it gives that saltiness and texture to such luxuriousness which makes it not over empowering but enhancing every flavor!
      Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Reply Aditi Bahl September 2, 2020 at 2:21 am

    In our home, we make pasta almost twice a week, so new recipes that are easy to prepare are most needed. I love this recipe and soon trying this one.

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto September 10, 2020 at 7:00 am

      Thanks Aditi, It wonderful to hear that you have pasta often. being Italian we are no strangers to that. As a matter of fact Nicoletta’s family in Rome make it every day!

  • Avatar
    Reply Leslie September 5, 2020 at 8:15 am

    We love pasta in our home! It’s a staple. My family would be so impressed if I made this for them! I’m drooling over this recipe and your cheese choice for this!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto September 10, 2020 at 6:53 am

      Hi Leslie that’s fantastic are you sure your not Italian? Lol. Can’t wait for you to try it! Thank you for commenting and sharing your foodie experience!
      Cheers!

  • Avatar
    Reply Tammy September 5, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    A perfect meal and a perfect song to go alongside it! I’m convinced there is nothing quite as comforting as pasta and sauce! This looks delish 🙂

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto September 10, 2020 at 6:55 am

      I know exactly what your feeling about pasta and sauce. I crave it a lot and it is so comforting and delicious. Thank you for reminding me!Have a great rest of the week!
      Cheers!

  • Avatar
    Reply Mama Maggie's Kitchen September 6, 2020 at 12:21 am

    This looks Incredibly delicious. I have to make this soon for my family!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto September 10, 2020 at 6:51 am

      I think your family is going to love this dinner. I find some don’t like eggplant but the way it is done here is well loved. Love to here the response of your family!
      Have fun cooking and Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Reply Ramona September 6, 2020 at 4:37 am

    I love the sound of this dish, the flavours included in this just make my mouth water! I havent had a pasta all norma for quite some time and now I miss it. The sound of this dish sounds really good right now and gives me an idea of what to cook tonight! Thank you for sharing this recipe.

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto September 10, 2020 at 6:50 am

      Your so welcome Ramona, so glad you tried it. How did you make out was it as delicious as it sounded. Would love to hear your feedback! Thanks for sharing we us!

  • Avatar
    Reply Veronika September 6, 2020 at 9:12 am

    Love pasta! I can eat it any day of the week! Also, love the flavors you put together, want to make it nest week!

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto September 10, 2020 at 6:48 am

      Thanks Veronika for your interest in this dish. This is a classic Italian regional dish that is truly loved and one that I clean my plate with bread to get all that sauce!
      Have fun with this recipe it is so easy!
      Cheers!

  • Avatar
    Reply Moop Brown September 6, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    This pasta looks so incredible and like it’s bursting with flavor! Can’t wait to try making it

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto September 10, 2020 at 6:46 am

      So glad you love this dish. Your right the flavors are fantastic and the textures spot on. Can’t wait to here your experience with this dish! Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Reply Jo September 6, 2020 at 11:22 pm

    Absolutely love classic recipes like this. Pasta is an emotion and when you make such delicious and simple pasta recipe, it get all the love.

    • Loreto
      Reply Loreto September 10, 2020 at 6:42 am

      That is a great way to look at pasta dishes. and so true. Love is a very important ingredient in any dish and I always try to mind my emotions when cooking! Thank you for sharing!

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