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
- 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.
- 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.