Pasta alla Norma

This peasant dish from La Minosse in Siracusa is like Sicily in a bowl.

Plus: Pasta Recipes and Tips

  • Servings: 4
KEY: Summer, Italian, Pasta & Noodles, Fast, Vegetarian, Dinner

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound ripe plum tomatoes, halved crosswise
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into 2-by-1/2-inch sticks
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh basil
  • 3/4 pound penne rigate
  • 1 cup crumbled ricotta salata or mild feta cheese (5 ounces)

How to make this recipe

  1. Working over a strainer set over a bowl, seed the tomatoes; press on the seeds and pulp to extract as much of the juice as possible. Cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch chunks and transfer them to the bowl with the tomato juice.
  2. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the eggplant, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.
  3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet, add the onion and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 4 minutes. Add all but 2 tablespoons of the tomatoes, 1/2 cup of water and salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat until the tomatoes are very soft, about 15 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a food mill and puree to remove the skins. Alternatively, press through a sieve with a rubber spatula. Return the sauce to the skillet, add the basil and all but 2 tablespoons of the eggplant and cook over low heat until warmed through.
  4. Meanwhile, fill a large pot with water, cover and bring to a boil. Add salt and the pasta. Cover partially until the until the water just returns to a boil, then uncover, stir the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and transfer the pasta to a warmed large serving bowl. Add the sauce, three-quarters of the ricotta salata and a good grinding of pepper; toss well. Add some of the reserved cooking water if the pasta is dry. Garnish with the reserved tomatoes, eggplant and ricotta salata and serve immediately.
Contributed By Published May 1997

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