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    Pasta alla Norma Recipe

    Published February 23, 2024. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

    This classic Pasta alla Norma Recipe of simmered tomato sauce with flash-fried fresh eggplant with cheese and basil is an excellent weeknight meal to serve to family and friends. You will love this simple-to-prepare, full-flavored pasta.

    I am a huge pasta fan and eat it at least once a week. If you’re looking to try out a few new pasta recipes, then you must make my Lasagna Bolognese or Pasta alla Gricia.

    pasta alla norma in a bowl


     

    Pasta Alla Norma

    Pasta alla Norma is a classic Sicilian Dish of pasta tossed in a simple pomodoro sauce and served with fried eggplant, basil, and Ricotta Salata cheese. This easy-to-make dish can be cooked in 30 minutes if organized correctly. You can also feel free to enhance the tomato sauce with things like wine, sugar, oregano, or balsamic vinegar.

    It’s said to be named in honor of La Norma, which is a famous opera written by Vincenzo Bellini in the early 1830s. Legend has it that Bellini would regularly go to a restaurant in the port city of Catania in Sicily and would repeatedly order the same dish. After some time, the restaurant owner decided the dish was a masterpiece, much like Bellini’s opera, so he named it Pasta alla Norma.

    Ingredients and Substitutions

    pasta alla norma ingredients
    • Pasta – I believe a tubular pasta is best for this dish. Try using penne, penne rigate, rigatoni, Tortiglioni, etc. This pasta shape will be stuffed with sauce on the inside and in the ridges on the outside, making it more delicious and saucier.
    • Tomatoes – I used canned whole San Marzano tomatoes in this pasta alla norma. However, any fresh or canned tomato will work in this dish.
    • Onion – You can use a red, white, yellow, or sweet onion. In addition, I used some whole garlic cloves. You can use just onion or garlic for the Pomodoro sauce.
    • Cheese – The classic cheese to use is Ricotta Salata. However, you can also use Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano. To recreate Ricotta salata, you can use drained ricotta and grated pecorino Romano.
    • Basil – Fresh basil is needed for the sauce and at the end as garnish. Substitute with dry basil.
    • Eggplant – Fresh eggplant is used in this pasta recipe. There are no substitutes for this, as this is the hero of the dish.
    • Oil – You will need both olive and avocado oil. If you don’t have avocado oil, you can use any neutral flavored high smoking point oil.

    How to Make Pasta Alla Norma

    Add the olive oil to a large sauce pot over medium heat and heat it up for 30 to 45 seconds.

    Next, stir in the onion and garlic, season with a little salt, and sauté for 2 minutes or until it starts to barely brown.

    cooking garlic and onions

    Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 5 minutes or until the ingredients are caramelized.

    caramelized onions

    Pour in the tomatoes, add in the basil leaves, gently season with salt and pepper, and cook over low to medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until the amount has reduced by about 1/3.

    tomato sauce

    Once the sauce is done, adjust any seasonings with salt and pepper and keep warm to the side.

    seasoning tomato sauce

    Next, add the avocado oil to a large frying pan over high heat and heat until it begins to smoke lightly. Add in the eggplant and spread it around so that they are on a single layer covering as much surface area as possible.

    frying egg plant

    Sauté the eggplant for no more than 90 seconds. You want them to be browned on 1 or 2 sides without overcooking. They should be al dente.

    fried eggplant

    Set them to the side on a paper towel to drain off any excess oil.

    draining fried eggplant

    Next, add your pasta to a large pot of boiling water and cook it according to the package or al dente.

    cooking pasta

    Drain the pasta and add it to the saucepot with sauce along with ½ of the grated Ricotta Salata, ½ the remaining basil leaves, salt, and pepper.

    adding cheese and pasta to tomato sauce

    Fold the ingredients together using a spoon or rubber spatula until combined.

    folding together pasta alla norma

    Serve the pasta in a bowl and then add on the fried eggplant, remaining cheese, basil leaves, and optional drizzle of olive oil.

    pasta alla norma with basil

    Make-Ahead and Storage

    Make-Ahead: This is meant to be eaten as soon as it is finished being made.

    How to Store: Cover the pasta and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. This will not freeze well.

    How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of pasta to a medium-sized saucepot and heat over low to medium heat while continually gently stirring with a spoon until hot. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.

    Chef Billy Parisi

    Chef Notes + Tips

    • If you use fresh homemade pasta, it will only take 1 to 2 minutes to cook.
    • Try adding cooked chicken or shrimp to this dish for an extra punch of protein.
    • Al dente means to the tooth. The pasta should be firm but not hard or chalky.
    • Any pasta shape will work for this recipe.
    • Ricotta Salata is by nature, Sicilian.
    • Use 1 tablespoon of dry basil instead of the fresh basil I used.

    More Pasta Recipes

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    Let's Cook - Chef Billy Parisi

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    Pasta Alla Norma Recipe

    5 from 3 votes
    This Pasta alla Norma Recipe of simmered tomato sauce with fried fresh eggplant, cheese, and basil is beyond delicious and easy to make.
    Servings: 4
    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 30 minutes

    Ingredients 

    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • ½ peeled finely grated yellow onion
    • 2 finely grated garlic cloves
    • 2 28- ounce cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, blended until smooth
    • 20 fresh basil leaves
    • 1 pound tubular pasta like penne rigate or rigatoni
    • 1 medium-sized skin on eggplant cut into 1-inch pieces about 12 ounces
    • ¼ cup avocado oil
    • 1 cup grated Ricotta Salata cheese
    • coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

    Instructions

    • Add the olive oil to a large sauce pot over medium heat and heat it up for 30 to 45 seconds.
    • Next, stir in the onion and garlic, season with a little salt, and sauté for 2 minutes or until it starts to barely brown.
    • Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the ingredients are caramelized.
    • Pour in the tomatoes, slightly tear half of the basil leaves, add them in, gently season with salt and pepper, and cook over low to medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until the amount has reduced by about 1/3.
    • Once the sauce is done, adjust any seasonings with salt and pepper and keep warm to the side.
    • Next, add the avocado oil to a large frying pan over high heat and heat until it begins to smoke lightly.
    • Add in the eggplant and spread it around so that they are on a single layer covering as much surface area as possible.
    • Sauté the eggplant for no more than 90 seconds. You want them to be browned on 1 or 2 sides without overcooking. They should be al dente.
    • Set them to the side on a paper towel to drain off any excess oil.
    • Next, add your pasta to a large pot of boiling water and cook it according to the package or al dente.
    • Drain the pasta and add it to the saucepot with sauce along with ½ of the grated Ricotta Salata, ½ the remaining basil leaves, salt, and pepper.
    • Fold the ingredients together using a spoon or rubber spatula until combined.
    • Serve the pasta in a bowl and then add on the fried eggplant, remaining cheese, basil leaves, and optional drizzle of olive oil.

    Notes

    Make-Ahead: This is meant to be eaten as soon as it is finished being made.
    How to Store: Cover the pasta and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. This will not freeze well.
    How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of pasta to a medium-sized saucepot and heat over low to medium heat while continually gently stirring with a spoon until hot. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.
    If you use fresh homemade pasta, it will only take 1 to 2 minutes to cook.
    Try adding cooked chicken or shrimp to this dish for an extra punch of protein.
    Al dente means to the tooth. The pasta should be firm but not hard or chalky.
    Any pasta shape will work for this recipe.
    Ricotta Salata is by nature, Sicilian.
    Use 1 tablespoon of dry basil instead of the fresh basil I used.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 799kcalCarbohydrates: 111gProtein: 27gFat: 29gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 343mgPotassium: 1235mgFiber: 11gSugar: 17gVitamin A: 865IUVitamin C: 24mgCalcium: 244mgIron: 5mg
    Course: dinner, Main Course
    Cuisine: American Italian, Sicilian