Pasta Alla Norma or Pasta with Eggplant, Tomato Sauce, and Ricotta is perhaps the most popular pasta dish to emanate from Sicily. Pasta alla Norma dates back to the 19th century and the legend goes that it was so popular that it was named after Sicilian composer Bellini’s successful opera Norma to honor both the dish and the opera (according to Nino Martoglio, a famous Sicilian theater director). Simply described Pasta all Normal is made with fried eggplant, tomato sauce, fresh basil and ricotta. For the ricotta, the originally recipe calls for ricotta salata (a harder, less sweet, version of the ricotta most folks consume and user in their home kitchens).
Ricotta salata, like much of the ricotta produced in the south, is usually made from Sheep or Goat’s milk. Our family in Calabria uses Sheep’s milk ricotta salata for Pasta alla Norma but here in the US we almost always use ricotta made from cow’s milk. Ricotta salata is salted and slightly sour and gives the pasta dish a unique flavor. We also like to use short pasta shapes for the dish, such as rigatoni, and Japanese or “Sicilian” eggplant.
- ½ pound of pasta (short shape such as penne or rigatoni
- ½ pound of eggplant (Japanese or Sicilian variety)
- ½ cup of ricotta
- Tomato sauce (prepared in advance)
- Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- Fresh basil
- Cut the eggplant into cubes and lightly salt (let the salt draw out some of the water from the eggplant). In a large frying pan add olive oil and pan fry eggplant until golden brown (remove to a plate).
- Remove the excess oil and add the tomato sauce and eggplant, cooking for 5 minutes or until the tomato sauce is re-heated. Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir well. Add the ricotta and stir again. Add the shredded basil and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
- Prior to serving, shave a bit more of the ricotta on top of the pasta.