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Pasta alla Norma recipe

Pasta alla Norma recipe

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  • Recipes
  • Ingredients
  • Pasta
  • Pasta types
  • Penne

Although simple, the flavours in this dish work perfectly together. Note the trick of pre-soaking the aubergine to guarantee that it's sweet, without that bitter edge that you sometimes find with aubergines.

1 person made this

IngredientsServes: 4

  • 350g tomato passata, or tomato pasta sauce
  • 1 small bunch basil, finely chopped
  • 1/2 large aubergine, sliced 2cm thick
  • olive oil for frying
  • 500g pasta, large penne preferably
  • salty ricotta cheese, Parmesan or Pecorino to taste
  • salt to taste

MethodPrep:30min ›Cook:45min ›Ready in:1hr15min

  1. Cook the passata for 30 minutes (as you want a nice thick reduced consistency) before turning off the heat and adding the basil. Meanwhile the aubergine is cut into 2cm thick round slices and soaked in cold, well-salted water for 10 minutes before being rinsed and drained.
  2. Next shallow fry the aubergine, drain the oil on kitchen paper and set aside.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta; drain.
  4. Combine the tomato sauce with the drained pasta and serve with a couple of slices of aubergine on top then a generous serving of grated salty ricotta cheese. Hey presto, the flavours are amazing.

Parmesan cheese

Parmesan cheese is not truly vegetarian, as it contains animal rennet. To make this dish 100% vegetarian, omit the cheese or find a suitable vegetarian substitute made without animal rennet. In supermarkets look for the 'parmesan style hard cheeses' which are suitable for vegetarians.

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    • 2 large, firm eggplants
    • extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
    • optional: 1 dried red chili, crumbled
    • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
    • a large bunch of fresh basil, stems finely chopped, leaves reserved
    • 1 teaspoon good herb or white wine vinegar
    • 2 14-ounce cans of good-quality chopped plum tomatoes, or 2 cups passata
    • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 pound dried spaghetti
    • 6 ounces salted ricotta, pecorino, or Parmesan cheese, grated
    1. First of all, get your nice firm eggplants and cut them into quarters lengthwise. If they've got seedy, fluffy centers, remove them and chuck them away. Then cut the eggplants across the length, into finger-sized pieces. Get a large nonstick pan nice and hot and add a little oil. Fry the eggplants in two batches, adding a little extra oil if you need to. Give the eggplants a toss so the oil coats every single piece and then sprinkle with some of the dried oregano—this will make them taste fantastic. Using a pair of tongs, turn the pieces of eggplant until golden on all sides. Remove to a plate and do the same with the second batch.
    2. When the eggplants are all cooked, add the first batch back to the pan—at this point I sometimes add a sneaky dried red chili. Turn the heat down to medium and add a little oil, the garlic, and the basil stems. Stir so everything gets evenly cooked, then add a swig of herb vinegar and the cans of tomatoes, which you can chop or whiz up. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, then taste and correct the seasoning. Tear up half the basil leaves, add to the sauce, and toss around.
    3. Get your spaghetti into a pan of salted boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. When it's al dente, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water, and put it back into the pan. Add the Norma sauce and a little of the reserved cooking water and toss together back on the heat. Taste, and adjust the seasoning, then divide between your plates by twizzling the pasta into a ladle for each portion. Any sauce left in the pan can be spooned over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining basil, grated cheese, and oil.

    • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
    • 3/4 pounds small Italian or Japanese eggplants (2 to 3 small eggplants), trimmed, split in half lengthwise, and cut into 3/8th-inch half moons (see note)
    • Kosher salt
    • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand into 1/2-inch chunks
    • 1 pound dry ridged, tubular pasta such as rigatoni or penne rigate
    • Handful fresh small basil leaves, or roughly torn large leaves
    • 2 ounces aged ricotta salata, finely grated (see note)

    Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add as much eggplant as fits in a single layer and season with salt. Cook, shaking pan occasionally, until eggplant is well browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer eggplant to a plate and set aside. Repeat with remaining eggplant, adding olive oil as necessary, until all eggplant is browned.

    Add any remaining olive oil and increase heat to medium-high. Heat until olive oil is shimmering. Add garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant but garlic is not browned, about 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly until evenly incorporated and tomato paste starts to fry. Add crushed tomatoes and their juice. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is thickened into a sauce-like consistency, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

    Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.

    Add sauce to pasta and toss to coat, adding reserved pasta water as necessary to thin sauce to desired consistency. Add eggplant slices and toss to combine.

    Serve pasta immediately, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, garnished with grated ricotta salata and torn basil leaves.

    Pasta alla Norma recipe - Recipes

    Pasta alla Norma

    Fried eggplant and tomato pasta

    Pasta alla Norma, a popular eggplant Italian pasta dish traditionally from Sicily. Made with fried eggplants, fresh basil and simple tomato sauce. It’s a perfect fusion of Italian Mediterranean flavours, simple and quick to make with few ingredients.


      10oz - 300g Pene Pasta Handful of fresh basil 1 can 14oz - 400g peeled cherry tomatoes (or roma) 2 garlic cloves 1 tsp hot chili falkes 1 x eggplant (large) 1 cup grated Ricotta Salata ½ cup extra virgin olive oil Salt and Pepper


    Heat up a pot of water for your pasta. Bring to the boil, then salt. Then add pasta.

    Cut the eggplant into strips that are around 1cm in width, then cut in half.

    In a deep frying pan, heat up olive oil and fry the eggplant until brown. Place on absorbent kitchen paper.

    Using the same pan, wipe away the oil, add fresh oil along with chopped or minced garlic and chili. Fry garlic but do not brown.

    Add tomatoes and give them a slight crush. (If using larger roma tomatoes, crush further). Season with salt and pepper.

    Grate and add half the ricotta salata cheese into the sauce. Mix well.

    Add the egg plant (you can only add half and reheat the rest later for garnish on top), some torn basil leaves along with a little grated cheese in the sauce. Mix well.

    Drain pasta in a colander (keep a little pasta water) and add the pasta to the sauce, mix well, use pasta water to thin out if sauce is too thick or too dry as pasta absorbs a lot of liquid. You want a little bit of liquid left in the pan as you serve.

    Slice basil leaves add to pasta just before serving.

    Grate some more ricotta salata on top and garnish with basil leaves.

    Little Tips

    Some varieties of eggplant can be bitter, if that's the case, once sliced lengthwise, add pieces to a colander sprinkled with a generous amount of salt. Leave 30-60 minutes, wash away salt and pat dry before use.

    Recipe Summary

    • 3 eggplant
    • coarse salt
    • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
    • 1 clove garlic
    • 1 (18 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • 1 small bunch fresh basil, chopped, divided
    • 1 (16 ounce) package spaghetti
    • 1 (8 ounce) container ricotta cheese, or to taste

    Wash eggplants, cut off the ends, and cut into 1/3-inch slices. Layer eggplant slices in a large bowl, sprinkling coarse salt over each layer. Let sit for at least 2 hours to draw out any bitterness.

    In the meantime, prepare the tomato sauce. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and cook garlic until browned, about 2 minutes. Remove garlic. Add peeled tomatoes and bring to a boil cook until tomatoes start breaking down, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add 2/3 of the basil and simmer for another 3 minutes.

    Rinse eggplant slices under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and fry the eggplant slices in batches until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Cut into small cubes.

    Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti in the boiling water, stirring occasionally, until tender yet firm to the bite, about 12 minutes. Drain.

    Mix eggplant pieces into the tomato sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes over low heat. Stir in ricotta and mix well. Season with salt, pepper, and remaining basil. Mix in drained spaghetti and cook until warm, about 3 minutes.

    The story behind Norma

    Pasta alla Norma was born in Catania , soon becoming, thanks to its success, a popular dish across Sicily. But why was it named "alla norma"?

    According to legend, at some point, someone who fell in love with the goodness of the dish, had exclaimed: "Chista è 'na vera Norma!", which would translate to "This is a real Norma!" (intended as a real masterpiece). The reference is to the "Norma" , the famous work of the composer Vincenzo Bellini. Basically, this pasta was SO good, that it deserved to be named after the famous opera by the Sicilian compositor.


    This delicious Italian pasta recipe comes together in just 20 minutes and all you need is only 7 simple ingredients:

    • pasta (spaghetti, rigatoni, penne, or fresh pasta)
    • tomatoes (fresh or canned)
    • aubergine
    • extra-virgin olive oil
    • fresh basil
    • garlic
    • ricotta salata

    Ricotta salata is a typical Sicilian cheese, and it’s slightly different fresh ricotta.

    It follows the same steps but is usually made from sheep’s milk whey, then it’s salted and aged for several months. Outside of Sicily it’s usually available in Italian delis or online. However, if you have troubles finding it, feel free to substitute it with pecorino cheese or classic Parmigiano Reggiano.

    When tomatoes are in season, I usually go for classic San Marzano tomatoes, but you can definitely use Piccadilly, datterini or sweet cherry tomatoes.

    Otherwise, high-quality canned plum tomatoes (San Marzano are always my fav option) are equally good and available all-year-long.

    When I'm in Sicily, I always use Italian aubergine, which has dark skin, pearl shape, and a sweet and meaty flavour.

    However, many other varieties (such as white, graffiti or globe aubergine) will work just as well. Here's a helpful aubergine guide to help you pick the right one.

    Ready in just 20 minutes

    This is one of those easy-to-follow Sicilian recipes that deliver big on satisfaction and don't require much effort.

    Let's start by prepping the aubergine. Cut each aubergine into thick slices, then cut into 2 cm cubes.

    Cooking tip: although not necessary, if you have a bit of extra time, place the aubergine cubes in a colander and sprinkle them with a little salt, cover with a plate then put a weight on top. Let it rest for 20-30 minutes. This process will make them sweat off their water (and a bit of their bitterness) so that you don't end up soggy when baked or fried.

    1. Heat a large skillet with oil over medium heat, add the eggplant, and cook until crispy and golden brown, then drain on kitchen paper.
    2. In the meantime, prepare a classic Italian tomato sauce.
    3. Slice the tomatoes into half and remove their seeds, this is optional, but the seeds are bitter so I usually remove them.
    4. Heat a large pan with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of extra-virgin olive oil and the garlic over medium heat. Fold in the tomatoes and stir-fry them for 5 minutes. Stir in ½ cup (120 ml) of warm water, 2 basil leaves and a pinch of sugar, cover with a lid and cook for 10-15 minutes. Discard the garlic and season the sauce with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
    5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, lightly salt the water, then drop the pasta in and cook until al dente, usually 2 minutes before the cooking time written on the package directions. I use either spaghetti or penne, but you can definitely use other shapes too.
    6. Divide the pasta among plates and top with generous shavings of ricotta salata (or pecorino/parmesan cheese) and serve straight away.

    Can I bake the aubergine?

    For a much healthier version, place the cubed aubergine in a bowl and season well with 1-2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil. Arrange the cubes on a baking tray covered with parchment paper (to avoid the aubergine sticking to tray, and bake at 180 C until golden and cooked through, about 20 minutes.

    10 Recipes from Stanley Tucci’s ‘Searching for Italy’

    Missing Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy? We understand. For six weeks straight, the actor and author transported viewers to Italy, uncovering history, humanity, and culture through the lens of food.

    While we’ve got you covered for all the places to hit up on your next trip, we realize that a trip to Italy might be on hold for the foreseeable future – but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the dishes that dazzled Tucci's palate in il bel paese. Here are 10 recipes from Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy that you can make at home.

    1. Spaghetti alla Nerano

    Here’s our spaghetti alla Nerano recipe, the spaghetti with fried zucchini he enjoyed at Lo Scoglio on the Amalfi Coast during the episode dedicated to Campania. Plus some tips for perfecting the dish.

    2. Tagliatelle al ragù

    This meat sauce (which some might refer to as bolognese) tossed with silky ribbons of fresh tagliatelle is an indisputable Italian classic. In the Emilia-Romagna episode, Tucci enjoys it at Casa Artusi, named for the late and great Pellegrino Artusi. Here’s our tagliatelle al ragù recipe.

    3, 4, and 5. Roman pasta trinity: Cacio e Pepe, Amatriciana, and Carbonara

    Cacio e pepe, amatriciana, and carbonara comprise the holy Roman pasta trinity, and Tucci samples all three during the Rome episode. Here are our recipes for cacio e pepe, amatriciana, and carbonara.

    Carbonara, photo: Riccardo Lettieri

    6. Pasta alla Norma

    This pasta with tomatoes, fried eggplant, and ricotta salata cheese is one of Sicily’s most beloved dishes – and one of the most simple to recreate at home. Here’s our pasta alla norma recipe.

    7. Cotoletta alla Milanese

    The Milanese-style veal cutlet is a must-eat in Milan. During the Lombardy episode, Tucci visits Ratanà restaurant where he prepares the dish with chef Cesare Battisti. Here’s our cotoletta alla Milanese recipe.

    8. Cacciucco alla Livornese

    When in Tuscany, Tucci sampled this historic fish stew from the port city of Livorno, and it stole his heart. Here you’ll find our cacciucco alla Livornese recipe.

    9. Bistecca alla Fiorentina

    In the final Tuscany-themed episode, Tucci enjoys bistecca alla Fiorentina, the traditional Florence-style steak, with chef Fabio Picchi. Here’s you’ll find our bistecca alla Fiorentina recipe along with some tips for perfecting the steak.

    10. Delizia al Limone

    Here’s Sal de Riso’s recipe for Delizia al Limone, an exquisite representation of the Amalfi Coast in the dessert form. The region's storied lemons, Limone Costa d’Amalfi PGI, are what makes the dessert so particular – if you can’t find them, Meyer lemons are a nifty substitute.

    Pasta alla Norma Recipe

    Make the kitchen the center of your home with this comforting Pasta alla Norma recipe, straight from beloved Chef Lidia Bastianich's comprehensive cookbook: Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Great Italian Cook.

    Lidia is an Emmy award-winning television host, best-selling cookbook author, restaurateur, and Eataly USA partner. Her cookbook is the ultimate master class: a beautifully produced definitive guide to Italian cooking, coauthored with her daughter, Tanya, and covering everything from ingredients to techniques to tools, plus more than 400 delectable recipes. Teaching has always been Lidia’s passion, and in this book, she gives us the full benefit of that passion and of her deep, comprehensive understanding of what it takes to create delicious Italian meals.

    Ziti alla Norma (Ziti with Roasted Eggplant and Ricotta Cheese)
    Recipe courtesy of Lidia's Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine, by Lidia Bastianich

    1 pound ziti
    2 large firm eggplants (about 2 pounds total)
    2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
    6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    2 jars (25 oz each) Lidia's Chunky Eggplant Tomato Sauce
    ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
    1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano
    1 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded
    8 ounces (1 cup) fresh ricotta cheese or packaged whole-milk ricotta cheese

    Trim the stems from the eggplants. Remove strips of peel about 1 inch wide from the eggplants, leaving about half the peel intact. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes, and toss in a large bowl with the 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Dump into a colander, and let drain for 1 hour. Rinse the eggplant under cool running water, drain thoroughly, and pat dry.

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with half the olive oil. Turn the eggplant cubes onto the baking sheet, toss to coat with oil, and spread them out in an even layer. Bake until the eggplant is very tender and browned, about 25 minutes. Turn and stir the eggplant cubes gently once or twice during baking so they cook evenly.

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat for the ziti. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Scatter in the garlic, and cook, shaking the pan, until golden, about 3 minutes. Pour in tomato-eggplant sauce, add the pepper flakes, and season lightly with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

    Stir the ziti into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. When it is al dente, drain the pasta and return it to the pot over low heat. Pour in about half of the sauce, tossing lightly to coat the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in ½ cup of the grated cheese and the basil. Add half of the roasted eggplant and toss, then add the ricotta by heaping teaspoonfuls, stirring it gently into the pasta you want the ricotta to warm, but you do not want it to blend with the sauce completely.

    Plate the pasta, and spoon the reserved sauce over each serving then divide the remaining baked eggplant on top of each pasta plate. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, and serve.

    8. Sicilian pasta

    Although the name may be misleading, it is a Neapolitan baked pasta. Sicilian pasta is in fact a Neapolitan version of the classic pasta alla norma the difference is in using fresh mozzarella cheese instead of salted ricotta cheese. After the preparation, the Sicilian pasta will then be baked au gratin for about 10 minutes, until a delicious and crunchy parmesan cheese crust forms. Once ready, you can enrich the surface with fresh cherry tomatoes and a few basil leaves.

    Pasta Alla Norma


    20 to 30 cherry tomatoes, depending on size, cut in half
    Olive oil
    Thyme sprigs, if you have them
    2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed and peeled
    12 small eggplants, about a pound total, trimmed and cut in half the long way
    300 grams of pasta, about 2/3 pound
    2 to 3 ounces ricotta salata, grated or diced small
    20 basil leaves, torn


    1. Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Put the tomatoes in one layer in an ovenproof pan and drizzle them liberally with oil, then salt and sprinkle with thyme sprigs, if using. Roast for about an hour, then stir and roast for another half-hour or so. When tomatoes are shriveled, add garlic, turn down heat to 225 degrees and roast for at least another hour. They should not cook completely dry if they threaten to overcook, turn the heat down or pull them out. Fish out the garlic if you like.

    2. Sizzle the eggplant in about 1/4 inch of oil over medium heat. The oil should bubble steadily. Turn eggplant as needed until nicely browned. Drain on paper towels, and when cool enough to handle, cut roughly into strips.

    3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Add the eggplant to the tomatoes and stir. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a bit of the pasta water. Cook the pasta and warm a serving bowl. At the bottom of the bowl put half the sauce and half the ricotta salata. Add the pasta and the remaining sauce, cheese and basil and toss.