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Pasta Alla Norma Recipe. A Delicious Eggplant Pasta Dish

Pasta Alla Norma Recipe. A Delicious Eggplant Pasta Dish
A Delicious Eggplant Pasta Dish

Eggplants are featured in many Italian dishes, but pasta alla Norma, a traditional Sicilian dish originating from Catania, is probably one of the better known eggplant and vegetarian pasta dishes. The Middle Eastern kitchen is also eggplant heavy with ubiquitous dishes like the deliciously roasted and smoky mezze: baba ganouj or mutabal? Or the more complex dishes: fatet betinjan (eggplant casserole) and mahshi betinjan (stuffed eggplants with rice and meat). Like most traditional Italian dishes, fresh produce, and simplicity, is the name of the game. The traditionally modest tomato sauce used in pasta alla Norma is tasty, and quick to bring together, but I like my marinara to be more full-bodied and a little more ambitious, especially since eggplants are pretty mild tasting. The marinara sauce in this pasta recipe is the perfect base for ALL tomato-based pastas and pizzas. Also, the original recipe for pasta alla Norma uses ricotta salata, which is a dry salty sheep milk cheese that’s been aged for several months , (similar-ish to fetta or cotija cheese) but unfortunately it’s hard to find, so I used a generous amount of freshly grated Grana Padano and/or ricotta instead, and it was perfectly delicious.

Pasta Alla Norma

Serves 4

Prep Level: Medium to Difficult

Ingredients for the Eggplants:

2 large eggplants cut in 1-inch cubes

½ cup cooking oil or olive oil

1 tablespoon salt

Ingredients for the Marinara Sauce:

4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 garlic gloves, pressed or thinly sliced

1 onion, minced finely

1 tablespoon (heaping) tomato paste

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 red or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar or cooking wine

1 anchovy fillet (optional)

1 tablespoon dried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped (optional)

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

2 cans of San Marzano tomatoes or chopped tomatoes

Pinch of chili flakes

½ teaspoon of dried oregano

½ cup of basil leaves, shredded

½ cup of ricotta and/or 1/3 cup grated Grana Padano

1 pound spaghetti or penne

How to for the Eggplants:

Place the cubed eggplants in a colander over a bowl. Toss them in the salt and leave them to drain for 1-2 hours. Pat the eggplants from the moisture and salt as much as you can. In a saucepan, and on medium heat, heat the oil. Shallow fry the eggplants in the hot oil in 2-3 batches till tender and golden brown. You may have to add more oil because the eggplants will sponge up the oil! Leave the fried eggplants to drain any excess grease on a paper towel lined plate.

How to for the Marinara:

In a medium sized pot, and on medium heat, add the oil, and sauté all the chopped vegetables, tomato paste, parsley, spices, anchovy and dried tomatoes, for 10 minutes, mixing occasionally. Next add the vinegar, salt, sugar and chili. Mix for a few minutes till incorporated. Add the canned tomatoes (if whole, break them up with your hands or smush them with a fork), basil, (reserve some to sprinkle over the pasta when ready to serve) and oregano. Let the sauce simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Add the eggplants to the marinara sauce and cook for another 5 minutes. Cook the pasta of your choice and drain. Add the pasta to the marinara eggplant sauce. When ready to serve add the cheese (s) to the sauce and mix slightly. Garnish with fresh basil and some more Grana Padano.

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