Every now and then it’s nice to have a fresh vegetarian dish. And with pasta? So good.
This is one of those Italian pasta dishes that is just perfect in so many ways. Bold, yet simple flavors, that just makes you want to go back for more and more. Baked eggplant in olive oil adds such a velvety texture to the amazing tomato-garlic sauce. We love this just as much as we love our classic Pasta Primavera. Pour a nice glass of wine, grab some crusty Italian bread, and you’ll be in pasta heaven!
HOW TO MAKE PASTA ALLA NORMA
Pasta all Norma is actually not difficult to prepare at all. You may be wondering about the origins of the name of this amazing dish. It has to do with a great Italian opera called Norma. Learn more about the name here.
Back to the recipe. Of course, eggplant is the star of this iconic pasta dish.
We like to peel the eggplant in strips, leaving some of the edible (and nutritious) skin intact. It’s delicious and pretty, too.
HOW TO ROAST EGGPLANT
Roasting the eggplant deepens and concentrates the flavor of the beautiful eggplant.
All that you have to do is roughly cut the eggplant into chunks, toss in oil, and then bake in the oven at 425°F for about 35 minutes.
EXPERT TIP: Eggplants contain a significant amount of water. Placing the eggplants in a colander and sprinkling them with salt for about 30 minutes before oiling them and then baking them will bring out a lot of the moisture. This will prevent you from having to watery of a sauce.
As you build the sauce, use your hands to squeeze the whole tomatoes into the pan.
San Marzano tomatoes are top-notch in flavor and can be found in most well-stocked supermarkets.
Make sure the can says ‘Certified.’
As the sauce simmers, you won’t believe the smell. It’s so amazing.
As the sauce is simmering, cook your pasta just al dente.
If you can’t find ricotta salata (which is not the same as regular ricotta cheese), just stick with the pecorino romano cheese, or even use nice mild feta.
Ready to make one of the best pasta dishes this side of Sicily? Go for it!
And when you do, be sure to take a picture of it, post it to Instagram, and tag @howtofeedaloon and hashtag #howtofeedaloon!
Pasta alla Norma
- 2 large eggplant
- 2 tbsp Kosher salt plus more to taste
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes crushed by hand, with juices
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes or to taste
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 lb pasta such as spaghetti or bucatini
- ½ cup ricotta salata cheese roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
- ½ cup basil fresh, roughly chopped, plus a few small leaves for garnish
- ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese grated
- Trim the stems from the eggplants and peel strips of the skin about 1-inch wide, leaving about half of the peel intact.
- Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes and toss in a large bowl with the two tablespoons salt.
- Place in a colander over a large bowl, or in the sink, and let stand for 30 to 45 minutes to drain.
- Rinse the eggplant under cool running water, drain thoroughly, and pay dry.
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Brush a rimmed baking sheet with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Turn the eggplant cubes onto the baking sheet and toss to coat with oil, and spread them out in an even layer.
- Bake until the eggplant is very tender and lightly browned, about 25 - 30 minutes. Turn and stir the eggplant gently once or twice to ensure even baking.
- Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes (crushed by hand) and the juices, along with the red pepper flakes and sugar to the pan. Season with a good pinch of Kosher and black pepper (1/2 teaspoon each).
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil.
- Add the pasta, and cook until al dente, according to package directions (stirring occasionally).
- Drain the pasta and return it to the pot over low heat.
- Pour in about 1/2 of the sauce, tossing lightly to coat the pasta.
- Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the ricotta salata and basil, then stir in the eggplant. Mix until just blended.
- Plate the pasta and spoon the reserved sauce over each serving, then top with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and a small basil leaf for garnish.