Today I was thinking about last years’ Italian summer in Sicily, and how many variation of this dish we had while traveling across the island. Pasta alla Norma is a summer staple, named after the Bellini opera: seasonal tomatoes and eggplants and some basil to garnish. Pure joy!!!The dish is usually finished with a few crumbles of ricotta salata or a dollop of fresh one, depending on preferences and where you might end up in the Island.This sauce is extremely easy and versatile, my grandmother used to boil a couple of potatoes and added them to the sauce, turning the whole pot into a side dish for grilled meats or fish. Imagine what you can do with this recipe, next time you barbecue your favorite pork sausages or sear a nice swordfish steak.
Serves: 4-6 / Prep time: 10 minutes / Cook time: 40 minutes
- 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- salt to taste
- 1 pinch hot pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1/2 red onion, diced small
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 1 medium-large eggplant, sliced into thin rounds
- 1 fresh bay leaves
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 pounds of dry pasta
- Fresh basil leaves for garnish
- Parmigiano Reggiano for serving
- In a small bowl mix 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and some hot pepper flakes, mix well and set aside.
- Preheat a cast iron grill on a high flame. In an 8- to 12-quart pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil.
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the sliced onion and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft but before it starts to brown. Add the red pepper flakes and cook less than a minute, until they are fragrant but not burnt.
- Add the tomatoes, season with salt and black pepper to taste, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. The sauce should be fluid but not wet and liquidy.
- Cook the eggplant in batches on a dry grill to prevent any smoke that would affect the flavor; sear 2 to 3 minutes per side, until cooked through. Remove from grill and brush them with the raw olive oil condiment.
- Reserve 4-6 slices of eggplant for finishing the dish and slice the remaining into ‘/2-inch-wide strips. Add the eggplant and bay 1 the sauce and continue simmering for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Remove the bay leaf.
- Add the pasta to the boiling water and use a wooden fo pasta so it won’t stick together. Cook until al dente. Drain, pour in a large bowl, add the sauce and mix well.
- If desired, garnish with basi, pepper flakes and d top with Parmigiano to taste.