Pasta alla Norma
Pasta alla Norma is a simple, yet richly flavored pasta dish from Sicily that combines eggplant, tomato sauce and fresh basil with salted ricotta cheese.
This easy-to-make pasta dish was named in honor of the opera “Norma” written by Vincenzo Bellini, a nineteenth-century composer born in Catania, a port city on the island of Sicily.
Steps for Making Pasta alla Norma
Our version of Pasta alla Norma cuts some of the fat and saves a little prep time by oven-roasting the eggplant instead of using the more traditional method of pan-frying.
The recipe is easy, with just four basic steps:
- Peel and cube your eggplant and roast until tender and barely browned around the edges.
- While the eggplant roasts, sauté some onion and garlic, then add diced tomatoes and season to taste.
- Let the sauce simmer while you cook and drain the pasta.
- Return the pasta to the pan, combine with the sauce, then add the roasted eggplant, fresh basil, and ricotta salata, mix gently and serve.
What is Ricotta Salata?
We’re all familiar with the moist, slightly sweet, creamy flavor of ricotta cheese, but not everyone has had the opportunity to try ricotta salata.
The word salata simply means salted, and ricotta salata is fresh ricotta cheese that has been salted, pressed and aged for a few months to produce a cheese that crumbles easily and has a slightly nutty flavor. It’s similar to feta, but not as tangy or salty.
While Pasta alla Norma is the best-known dish made with ricotta salata, it can be used in a variety of ways, like in this recipe for Ricotta Salata with Grilled Pineapple from BelGiosioso.
More Recipes Made with Roasted Eggplant
- Roasted Ratatouille Pasta
- Garlic-Roasted Vegetable Sub
- Roasted Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Grilled Cheese
- Quinoa with Roasted Eggplant, Kale and Mushrooms
Pasta alla Norma
- 8 ounces rigatoni, or other ridged tubular pasta
- 1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups canned diced tomatoes, undrained
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled (see notes)
- 4 tablespoons chiffonade of fresh basil, divided
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Romano or Parmesan cheese for grating
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta.
- Place the eggplant cubes in a large bowl. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and spread the mixture over the 2 lined baking sheets.
- Roast the eggplant for 12 to 15 minutes, or until it’s tender and golden brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- While the eggplant roasts, heat the remaining olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until soft and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
- Add the tomatoes and bring the mixture to a slow simmer. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for an additional 20 minutes.
- Cook and drain the pasta according to the package directions then return it to the pot, add the sauce and combine.
- Add all but 1 tablespoon of the basil (reserving the remaining tablespoon for garnish) and gently mix in the roasted eggplant and ricotta salata.
- To serve, divide the pasta between 4 serving bowls, top with grated Romano cheese, a sprinkling of fresh basil and a little freshly ground black pepper.