Pasta alla Norma is the simplest of pasta dishes. It starts with pasta and a basic tomato sauce that is topped with fried eggplant and grated Ricotta Salata cheese. The tomato sauce is what really makes this dish – use the best quality canned tomatoes. My preference is the San Marzano variety which tend to be less acidic and slightly sweeter. The key to making a good sauce is obtaining the right balance between the acidity of the tomatoes, with just the right amount of sweetness, and salt. Pasta alla Norma is super delicious when made with fresh pasta.
PASTA ALLA NORMA
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes 4 servings.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for frying
1 eggplant (1 to 11/2 pounds), ends trimmed and cut into 1/2 by 1-inch pieces
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 (28 ounce) can San Marzano crushed tomatoes or passata
6 large fresh basil leaves plus basil additional for garnish
Salt and pepper
1 pound fresh pasta or 1 pound rigatoni, penne, or spaghetti,
Shaved Ricotta Salata, and/or Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1. FRY THE EGGPLANT: Heat a layer of oil in a deep skillet or pan, over medium-high heat. Add half of the eggplant and sautè until browned and soft. Repeat with remaining eggplant. Transfer to a bow l and set aside.
2. MAKE THE SAUCE: Reduce heat to medium, add onions to the same pan and cook until soft and translucent but not browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, the 6 basil leaves, and 1/4 cup of water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with lid and simmer for 20 minutes. Add additional water to thin out as necessary. Taste sauce and add 2 teaspoons sugar and additional salt and/or sugar, if necessary. Cook 20 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.
3. COOK THE PASTA: While the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente and drain pasta and put back into the pot. Toss pasta with some of the sauce. Place into individual serving bowls. Spoon remaining sauce on top. Top with eggplant, grated cheese, and garnish with minced basil leaves.