Updated: Sep 15, 2020
A real Sicilian classic, you can barely go wrong with this recipe which is pure, indulgent comfort food. The name comes from the opera "Norma" by Vincenzo Bellini - the one with that absolutely classic aria "Casta Diva", most famously sung by Maria Callas - which will transport you right into your own sun-soaked day dream of Sicilian drama.
Italy certainly does drama rather well, it's like its part of the national psyche. Opera, Chiaroscuro, Baroque... not to mention Italy boats ALL of Europe's active volcanoes - coincidence?!. Sicily then takes it to new levels.. I mean just look at these pictures, proving that more is always more.
On the subject of drama, you know what else is dramatic? How much olive oil aubergines soak up.
I could honestly live on aubergines, but for this slight problem. Whether you're grilling or frying, the aubergine slices needs to be evenly coated in oil so they cook and brown nice and evenly, but if you use the haphazard drizzle method of oil application you'll end up using gallons of the stuff! It will be delicious, but I find a better way to manage it is to use a pastry brush, as this way you can be more precise. Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into a small bowl and brush it on each slice and you'll find it will go much further.
I like to pan-fry the aubergines and the serve them on top of the pasta, (like this restaurant example below) rather than mix through so you get lovely big chunks of intact creamy aubergine.
Serve this with a high-acid red wine, like a Sangiovese such as this Vino Rosso di Montepulciano from Poliziano.
PASTA ALLA NORMA
Your choice of pasta - (e.g. Casarecce, Penne, Rigatoni or Spaghetti would all be authentically Sicilian choices)
1 x Good quality canned tomatoes, chopped, ideally San Marzano.
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Aubergines - ideally the larger, rounder purple coloured ones!
Olive oil - half a cup to 1 cup.
Salt & Pepper
Generous handful of (ideally) Ricotta Salata, grated, or otherwise Pecorino, or parmesan.
- Slice your aubergines around 1-2cm thick.
- Pour olive oil into a small bowl, season it with a pinch of salt, pepper and oregano, and with a pastry brush, paint the olive oil onto one side of each aubergine slice.
- Add each slice, oiled side down to a hot pan, and then paint the other side. Fry all your aubergines like this in batches, without crowding the pan, turning over once golden brown. Add more salt, pepper and oregano to taste as you go.
- In another pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil and sauté your garlic briefly. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and a shake of oregano. Simmer the sauce, adding a pinch of sugar (or ketchup) to taste, if needed.
- Cook your pasta according to instructions in plenty of salted water. Drain, and then add it immediately to your tomato pan to thoroughly coat the pasta in the tomato sauce.
-Add plenty of torn basil just before serving. Serve it up, topped with the slices of aubergine, more fresh basil and sprinkle over the grated cheese.
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