Pasta alla Norma

There is a very famous Opera house called in Catania, called Teatro Massimo Bellini. The Opera house was inaugurated in 1890 with a performance of the composer Frederico Bellini, with his masterwork, Norma. After one of the performances of Norma the crew went out to eat and drink. It was late and all the restaurants where closed. But on of the restaurant re-opened, and welcomed them to the table. The chef went back to kitchen and looked after what was left. There was pasta, tomato sauce, cheese and eggplants. They made a pasta of what they had left. The opera crew loved the dish and asked, what is this pasta called? The chef didn’t have any name of this pasta. He raised his arms in not knowing what to say, looked around and said: “Pasta alla Norma”!

Melanzane Nostrale annasfoodstories
In October you can buy locally produced eggplants everywhere in Palermo. In my backyard around noon, you can smell the frying pans with eggplants.

Traditionally this dish is made with salted ricotta, but it is hard to find this cheese outside Italy. Salted ricotta melts softly with the pasta, my suggestion as a substitute is feta cheese. 

The eggplant cubes can be fried in olive oil, then you do it the authentic Sicilian way,  or as I do, roasted in the oven.

You need:

  • 1 medium/large size purple eggplant
  • 3 cloves of garlic, with the skin on
  • 1 x 400g tin of whole tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil
  • 150g feta cheese, coarsely grated 
  • 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 300g pasta penne, or any other pasta you wish

This is how you make pasta with aubergines:

Preheat the oven on 200C / 400F.

  • Remove the stalk from the eggplant and cut into 2 cm cubes. Pour onto a tray lined with baking parchment. Drizzle over 3 tablespoons of olive oil and freshly ground pepper. Spread the cubes out on the tray. Roast the eggplant cubes for 30 minutes until golden brown. 
  • Put the garlic cloves, with the skin on in a large pan and heat gently with 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

  • Add the tin of whole tomatoes into the pan. Stir and turn down the heat and continue to cook for 20 minutes.  Shop up half of the basil leaves, add to the sauce and toss around.
  • When the sauce is ready cooked, remove the garlic. Or, if you love garlic, leave them in, as garlic-heaven surprise.
  • Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water and according to the packet instructions.
  • When the eggplant cubes are ready, add them into the sauce. 
  • Add half of the coarsely grated feta cheese into the sauce. 
  • Add halv a cup of the warm water from the pasta to the sauce, stir gently.
  • When the pasta is ready, drain it and add it to sauce. Put the heat for the sauce pan on low, and toss everything gently together. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Serve the pasta with the coarsely grated feta cheese and the remaining basil leaves.

Left overs:

Pasta with eggplant is very good as left-overs for the next day. Warm the pasta in an oven-proof dish, sprinkle with coarsely grated feta, extra virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. If the pasta is a little bit dry, pour in halv a cup of water. Place the dish in the oven and bake at 190 C / 375 F for 20 minutes.

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