Pasta alla Norma is a typical recipe from Catania, in Sicily.
Sauce alla Norma combines classic Mediterranean flavours: tomatoes, aubergines and basil, crowned by the intense, pungent taste of seasoned ricotta. Short pasta is best suited to this sauce: macaroni or penne or even Anellini or Anelletti, a 100% Sicilian durum wheat semolina pasta format in the shape of a ring as you can see here, which is typical of the city of Palermo.
Norma, besides being a common Italian feminine name, is also the title of a particularly beautiful and popular opera by Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini. Tradition has it that in the mid-nineteenth century, a playwright from Catania, tasting this sauce for the first time, judged it to be just as good as Bellini’s opera, and exclaimed, ‘This is a real Norma!’
Serves: 4 | Preparation time: 30 mins | Cooking time: approx. 45 mins
- Peeled whole plum tomatoes or Tomato Passata: 800 g
- Anellini Pasta or Maccheroni Pasta: 380 g
- Ricotta Salata (Aged Ricotta), grated: 100 g
- Aubergine, medium sized: 2
- Garlic: 1 clove
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- Basil, fresh: approx. 10 leaves
- EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil: 500 ml
- Salt and pepper: to taste
Dice the aubergines, place them in a pasta strainer and sprinkle on top the rock salt. Leave them to rest for at least half an hour (an hour would be better); the excess water will ooze out helped by the salt.
Once the aubergine cubes are drained, dab lightly to get rid of residual coarse salt and quickly rinse them, dry them accurately.
Heat up the EVOO, stir fry the aubergine cubes a small quantity at a time.
Place aubergine cubes on a plate lined with a double layer of paper towels as aubergines, regardless, absorb a lot of oil. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and set them aside.
In a saucepan, fry up the diced onion and the garlic clove a few mins, add the peeled tomatoes or tomato sauce along with basil leaves. Season to taste, stir thoroughly and leave it to cook for at least 20 minutes with a lid.
Turn off the heat, add part of the grated salted ricotta, basil leaves and half of the fried aubergines.
Bring salt water to boil in a pot, pour the pasta and then drain it when it still is al dente.
Transfer the Anellini to the saucepan with the aubergine sauce, stir thoroughly, finish by adding the rest of the fried aubergine and the salted ricotta.