Pasta alla Norma (Pasta with eggplant)

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PRESENTATION

The scents and flavors of Sicily, a magical, fascinating land, sunny and beautiful from North to South and from East to West. This recipe comes from the eastern part of the island, pasta alla Norma (pasta with eggplant), one of the symbols of the island's cuisine, together with cannoli. This specialty from Catania was created as a culinary homage to the most beautiful opera of the famous composer Vincenzo Bellini: Norma. A tasty pasta dish seasoned with fresh tomatoes and a cascade of fried eggplant. But it wouldn't be pasta alla Norma (pasta with eggplant) without the addition of fresh basil leaves and a generous sprinkling of grated salted ricotta cheese added at the end of cooking: all the Mediterranean scents combined in one dish! Pasta alla Norma is a dish with a unique and enveloping taste, a vegetarian dish, prepared with simple and genuine ingredients as Sicilian mothers, grandmothers and aunts still do: a real feast of flavors, bite after bite. Meat lovers, instead, can try chicken alla Norma, an unusual and appetizing variation of this traditional pasta dish.

INGREDIENTS

Sedani Rigati pasta 3 ¼ cups (320 g)
Salted ricotta cheese ¾ cup (200 g)
Eggplant 1 lb (500 g)
Extra virgin olive oil 1 drizzle
Garlic 2 cloves
Cluster tomatoes 2 lbs (850 g)
Basil ¼ cup (10 g) - fresh
Fine salt to taste
For frying
Extra virgin olive oil to taste
Preparation

How to prepare Pasta alla Norma (Pasta with eggplant)

To prepare the pasta alla Norma, wash and dry the cluster tomatoes, then cut them into quarters 1. Pour a drizzle of oil into a thick-bottomed pan and sauté two peeled whole cloves of garlic 2, then remove them if you wish. When the garlic has sautéed for a few moments, pour in the tomatoes 3

and cook over very low heat, covering with a lid 4; leave to cook for about twenty minutes until the tomatoes are soft and have released their juice. Once they are ready 5, strain them through a vegetable mill placed over a bowl 6 to obtain a juicy and smooth pulp.

Transfer everything back into the pan 7 and season with salt 8; cook for 10-15 minutes more to thicken. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt. In the meantime, wash the eggplants, dry them well, trim them, then cut them into thin slices 9.

If you are using commonly sold eggplants, there will be no need to sprinkle them with salt and let them give off their bitter juices. Fry the eggplants in abundant extra virgin olive oil heated to 340°F (170°C) (keep the temperature constant by frying a few eggplants at a time and checking the oil temperature with a kitchen thermometer) 10. As they turn golden brown, drain them with a skimmer 11 and transfer them to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Season with salt to taste 12.

Cook the pasta al dente 13 and when it is almost ready, pour the basil leaves into the sauce with the heat off, stir and add the drained pasta directly into the pan 15. Mix well to flavor.

Transfer the pasta onto serving plates, top each portion with abundant slices of fried eggplant 16, then sprinkle with salted ricotta cheese grated with a coarse grater 17. Serve your pasta alla Norma with a few slices of eggplant placed in the middle of the table so that guests can add them as they wish 18!

Tips

You can remove the garlic cloves before straining the tomatoes, and you can add the eggplant to a ready-made sauce if you prefer as it depends on the version of pasta alla Norma (pasta with eggplant) you are fond of! The pasta suitable for this preparation is the short kind, such as sedani rigati, rigatoni or mezze maniche.

Storage

We recommend eating pasta alla Norma (pasta with eggplant) immediately. Freezing is not recommended.