Pasta alla norma
This is my version of Pasta alla norma, a very simple Sicilian eggplant pasta dish. The ingredients are eggplant, tomato, garlic, basil and ricotta salata, a ricotta that has been salted and pressed for several months to form a firm, white cheese much like an aged feta. You can find salted ricotta at DOC Delicatessen, Carlton, Mediterranean grocers and Italian oriented IGAs.
My variation to this classic is to divide and cook the eggplant two ways – half as cubed eggplant fried in olive oil, which is traditional, while the other half of the eggplant I roast whole until the flesh is soft and creamy and can be scooped out into the sauce. My version results in a more unctuous sauce.
Note: Remember to precook your pasta, cool it and then reheat in the sauce just before serving if you want to create resistant carbs and remove some calories from your meal.
- 1 large eggplant
- 3 Roma tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- olive oil
- handful of parsley or torn basil leaves
- 300 g short pasta
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Cook the pasta in a large pot with plenty of salted boiling water until al dente, drain, keeping a little of the pasta water for the sauce and set the pasta aside to cool.
Halve the eggplant lengthwise and cut one half into 1 cm cubes, place the cubes in a colander, sprinkle with 3 teaspoons of salt and leave to drain for at least 30 minutes. Salting will reduce the amount of oil absorbed when frying and keep a firmer texture.
Cut the flesh of the remaining half of the eggplant with a sharp knife in a cross hatch pattern without cutting right through to the skin and dribble with approximately 30 ml of olive oil. Bake the half in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the flesh is soft.
Rinse the eggplant in plenty of running water to remove the salt, drain and pat dry with paper towel. Saute the eggplant cubes until golden brown in enough olive oil to just cover the surface of the pan. Remove the fried eggplant from the pan. Saute the garlic briefly without browning then add the chopped tomato and cook until it forms a thick sauce. Scoop out the flesh of the baked eggplant into the tomato and stir with some pasta water to form a smooth sauce. Add the fried eggplant, fresh basil and the pasta, quickly tossing it through the sauce until well coated and reheated. Serve immediately with grated ricotta salata.