a Sicilian tradition :: Pasta alla Norma recipe


On Monday a few of my friends and I gathered for a cooking class with Maria, a wonderful Italian woman who often watches our children.  She is known for being a fabulous cook and we’ve all enjoyed her bruschetta and pasta alla norma in the past.  She had agreed to teach us both recipes so we can recreate them after we leave Sicily.

I’m going to share her pasta alla norma recipe today and her bruschetta recipe tomorrow.  Pasta alla norma is a classic Sicilian dish that is made with fried eggplant, tomatoes, and salted ricotta cheese.  I’m not a huge fan of eggplant — even though it is ubiquitous in Sicily — but I will eat pasta alla norma by the kilo, it seems. It tastes like Sicily to me.

Here are some pictures of the process and then the recipe is at the end.  Enjoy!


First, take a kilo of tomatoes and pour boiling water over them.  Let it stand while you prepare the eggplant by cutting strips off four sides.  Eggplant becomes very soft when cooked so the remaining skin helps it to keep some shape.


Chop the eggplant into 1-inch pieces and put in a bowl of cold salted water.  Sprinkle salt on top.  The salt helps draw out the bitterness of the eggplant.

Meanwhile, take your tomatoes, deseed them, and then dice them.


Next you’ll need olive oil.  Our olive oil comes in 5-liter jugs around here!


Simmer the tomatoes with 3/4 cup olive oil and 6 cloves of garlic for about an hour.


Take a break to admire all our cute kids playing around the house…


And a sleeping baby, bless him.  It lasted 5 minutes before he was back in Mama’s arms.


In a cup of hot vegetable oil, fry the chopped eggplant in batches.  Be sure to squeeze out the salt water before adding the eggplant to the oil.


Your eggplant should look like this when it’s done frying.  Yum!


Take another break to admire cute kids admiring a cute baby.


Cook your pasta and then toss it with the sauce and the fried eggplant. Top with grated ricotta cheese.


And eat!  Best when served by a sweet Italian nonna.  Buon appetito!



Pasta alla Norma Recipe


  • 1/2 kilo pasta (1 lb)
  • 1 kilo tomato (2 lbs)
  • 3 eggplants
  • 6 whole cloves garlic
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • Cold water with small handful of kosher salt
  • 3/4 c. olive oil
  • Ricotta Salata
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar (for sauce if tomatoes aren’t sweet enough)
  • 1Tbsp dried basil or handful of fresh basil


For Eggplant:

  • Peel eggplant leaving 1in. strips of skin around. (4 strips of skin, 4 strips of flesh) and dice
    into 1in. pieces and place in prepared salt water. Sprinkle 2 palm fulls of salt onto top of
  • Heat vegetable oil in large skillet. Squeeze water from eggplant really well. Fry eggplant
    (in small batches) 5 minutes, turn pieces over, continue to fry until golden brown.
  • Drain into colander set in large bowl.

For sauce:

  • Place tomatoes in large bowl. Bring pot of water to a boil and pour over tomatoes.
  • Let sit for 10 minutes, drain, then peel, seed (by squeezing tomato), and pit tomatoes.
  • Dice very small and place in large skillet pour 1/2 Tbsp salt in tomatoes and bring to simmer.
  • Pour in 3/4 c olive oil. Add 6 whole cloves of garlic. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Taste sauce, add sugar if needed. Stir, continue to simmer. Let simmer 1 hr.
  • Add 1 Tbsp dried basil or handful of fresh basil

Add tomato sauce and eggplant to cooked pasta. Top with shredded ricotta salata cheese.

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15 Responses to a Sicilian tradition :: Pasta alla Norma recipe

  1. OM March 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm #

    This sounds like a recipe I’d love, seeing that I love both pasta and fried eggplant. I must try it soon!

    • Becca March 14, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

      Where else have you eaten fried eggplant, or in what other dish? I have recently discovered how scrumptious it is and want to eat more of it to help me eat this vegetable.

      • OM March 15, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

        I’m just seeing this now, sorry for the delay answering!
        We used to do fried eggplant slices as a side dish, using them mostly as potato chips. And then there’s one of my favorite dishes, “tumbet”, which is similar to a ratatouille: you fry potato and eggplant slices, red and green peppers, then meat (pork, generally) or fish. Make layers with it all and (potato, eggplant, meat/fish, peppers) and cover with tomato sauce seasoned with garlic and bay leaf. I’ve been searching for recipes online but find none in english that’s actually something I’d recognize as tumbet… pity. If I find one, would you like me to send you the link? It is a bit time consuming, but it tastes great (in my opinion, of course) and can be tweaked easily (adding zucchini slices, using meat or fish or making it completely vegetarian, homemade tomato sauce…)

      • OM March 15, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

        Oh, and then there’s this one (http://pinterest.com/pin/167125836144493194/) which I have never tried but I think it is a genius idea!

  2. Shelby March 6, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    I am such a huge fan of truly authentic recipes: this one sounds really yummy!

  3. Lisa Marshall March 6, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Thanks for sharing, I always enjoy reading your blogs. I will I could find more time to keep up with mine.

  4. Steph @ meet.make.laugh. March 6, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Sounds delicious!

  5. Emily March 7, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    I am so happy this is a veggie recipe; I stalled out on our attempt to cook without meat at home…. and now I have a new thing to try. Yum.

    • Becca March 14, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

      I’ve been trying to cook with a minimum of meat, too, Emily, and it’s not easy! We just cooked this last night on our own and it was delicious and very straightforward. Hope you enjoy!

  6. Rachel June 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Thought you should know that I Googled “pasta alla norma” and your blog was #3 on the first page! Woot!! xoxo

    • Becca June 25, 2013 at 2:48 am #

      Thank you!!! Although how many people Google that, I wonder…? I’ll take what I can get!

  7. Rosa Melendez July 29, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Becca, so nice to see that your family is growing! I live here in Sicily too. I just made the Pasta a la Norma, which i wanted to try for a long time, and it was wonderful! I didn’t have the ricotta cheese but still tasted delicious. I also enjoyed going to the markets, need to do it more often. Next I will try the caponata, hope it is as good as it looks on your pictures!!! Ciao!

  8. Effie powell September 1, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    Really want to make this recipe now, since eggplant is in season. I cant find the Ricotta Salata in my local grocery though. I think that nice salty cheese will add so much to it, i hate to go without.
    Just loving the blog! Thanks for doing it!

  9. Becca September 2, 2013 at 2:24 pm #

    Good luck on finding ricotta salata, Effie! It’s gotta be there somewhere… maybe even in the commissary?? And so glad you enjoy this blog! Hope all’s well up north!


  1. Spring…are you here to stay? | tarmichelle - March 7, 2014

    […] On the foodie side of my adventures- Here is an southern Italian recipe I really enjoy, it’s simple and tasty: the Pasta alla Norma, a classic pasta dish in Sicilian cuisine from Catania, an Italian city on the east coast of Sicily. It’s made with tomatoes, fried eggplant, grated ricotta salata cheese, and basil. But it is not the season for basil, and it is difficult to fry eggplant for just one serving, so I improvised! The recipe is pretty self-explanatory, but if you would like one, I think this is a good place to start! […]

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