Pasta alla Norma is a dish from the heart of the Mediterranean. It’s a Sicilian pasta dish with an eggplant and tomato sauce from the city of Catania.
The name of the dish references the 1831 Vincenzo Bellini bel canto opera Norma. The opera was so popular at the time that if something was of extraordinary quality — like the opera Norma — it was described as “Norma.”
The famous theatre producer, writer, and early film director Nino Martoglio from Catania is said to have sat down to this pasta meal and finding it so good, declared “this is a real Norma.”
Pasta alla Norma is a tomato sauce and eggplant dish with a twist. It also has a savory element: hot peppers mixed into the sauce. There are regional variations of this dish, based mainly on how the “savory” element is created.
For the Mostly Mediterranean version we used a hot cherry pepper mixture as our “savory.”
Give it a try. It’s so Norma!
And here is the resplendent opera singer Maria Callas in the title role:
Pasta alla Norma
- food processor
- 2 eggplants
- 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
- 2 fresh whole cherry peppers seeds separated
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 small onion
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes, canned
- 1 lb pasta
- ricotta cheese for garnish
- Chop the eggplants into workable-sized chunks and pulse in a food processor three or four times until minced, but not a pulp.
- Add the eggplant to a large skillet with the olive oil. Cover and cook over a medium/low heat for 20 minutes to break down the eggplant. Stir a few times throughout this process.
- Put a large pot of water to boil for the pasta.
- Put the cherry peppers, garlic, onion, and vinegar in the food processor. Add a teaspoon of the cherry pepper seeds. Based on your heat tolerance, you may want to adjust the amount of seeds you add. Pulse the ingredients to mince them.
- Make a well in the center of the cooked eggplant and add the cherry pepper/onion mixture to the center of the skillet and cook uncovered for 10 minutes with the eggplant surrounding the mixture.
- Stir the skillet ingredients together. Add oregano, basil, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the tomatoes and stir everything together. Bring to a simmer and cook uncovered for 10 minutes.
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
- Add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the skillet to loosen up the ingredients and form a sauce. Eggplants absorb liquids and could dry the sauce a bit.
- Add the cooked pasta to the skillet. Mix the pasta thoroughly with the sauce and the additional 1/4 cup of pasta water.
- Serve with a dollop of ricotta cheese.