Monday, September 20, 2010

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma is apparently named for the composer Bellini's opera "Norma". Who knew? It's a Sicilian pasta dish made up of tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and ricotta salata. My favorite version of it is from Mario Batali's restaurant Otto, and he uses bufala ricotta instead of ricotta salata. Bufala ricotta is hard to find, and the traditional version of the dish calls for ricotta salata, so that's what I used.

Serves 3-4
1 medium eggplant
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-oz. can chopped Italian tomatoes
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound pasta (cavatelli or penne)
10 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
ricotta salata for grating

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Dice the eggplant and saute in the olive oil until it starts to brown, about 5-7 minutes.

Heat the other two tablespoons of olive oil in a pot big enough to hold the sauce and pasta once done. Add the minced garlic and cook for a few minutes until fragrant and starting to brown just a little. Add the tomatoes and red pepper (1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons, depending on how hot you want it). Heat the tomatoes for about 5-10 minutes, long enough to mix the garlic and red pepper flavors into the sauce. Add the eggplant and keep on low heat.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted, boiling water. I used cavatelli but penne is the typical pasta shape for this dish. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the sauce. Top with fresh basil and grated ricotta salata.

Two things - to chiffonade basil, stack the leaves in a pile and roll them up lengthwise. Cut the roll into thin slices, and you'll have thin strips of basil. Sounds fancy, but it's very easy. And ricotta salata - it looks nothing like regular ricotta. It's much drier and crumblier, almost the same consistency of feta. And it's salty, so it works really well with the flavors of the tomato, eggplant, and basil.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Katherine!
    Great recipe, I love the Pasta alla Norma. Sometimes I also use cherry tomatoes instead of canned ones because of their higher acidity. Happy cooking!