Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pasta alla Norma

I became an honorary Sicilian the other day.

How, you ask me?

I married a man who was born in Sicily.


I carried two half-Sicilian children in my womb for eighteen months (that is 9 x 2, I am not an elephant. Yet.).


I made something that is so second nature to a Sicilian that they wouldn't think twice about it, like when you lock your front door and don't remember doing it.

I deep-fried eggplant.

So what is the big deal? 

Well, first of all, deep frying has always scared the bejesus out of me. I do not deep fry anything. Ever. But I decided that now that I have a food blog I have to face up to my fears and tread into the unknown. Secondly, I have been eating my mother in law's fried eggplant for the last 16 years and it somehow never occured to me I could make it myself.

I had one, lonely eggplant in my fridge. I couldn't come up with any ideas and I wanted to make something quick on a week night. What else is new? I decided to make pasta alla Norma. Pasta with a simple, garlic-based tomato sauce, fried eggplant and ricotta salata (see below) sprinkled over it. The dish, which seems to have originated in Catania, was dedicated to the composer Vincenzo Bellini (from this city) and his best-known opera La Norma.

So chop, chop. chop and fry, fry, fry I went.

Result? It had to be good because my DH, who was presumably already drinking fried eggplant in his bottle, said it was perfect, or to be more accurate, perfetta!

Ingredients (4 large servings)
1 eggplant
1 tin crushed tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes in summer)
a few cloves of garlic
olive oil
vegetable oil
1/2 kg pasta (1 package)
grated ricotta salata (or parmesan cheese)

Slice the eggplant horizontally into 1 cm discs and then dice it. Place it in a colander and sprinkle with salt to get rid of moisture and so there is no risk of a bitter aftertaste. My mother in law prefers using the light purple eggplant variety when she can find it. Start heating the vegetable oil in a large sauce pan and throw in the eggplant when it is very hot. The oil should sizzle and bubble when you drop a piece in and the eggplant should not absorb the oil. Start frying in at least two batches, since you don't want to overcrowd the pan. It took longer than I expected it to, so don't worry if it doesn't brown immediately. Be patient, there is nothing worse than undercooked eggplant. In the meantime, bring a pot of water to a boil and brown some garlic in another pan with olive oil. Add in the tinned tomatoes, a pinch of salt and some pepper. When the eggplant is ready, take it out with a slotted spoon and let it rest on several sheets of paper towel to absorb the excess oil, the longer the better. My mother in law often does this several hours in advance. When the pasta water comes to a boil, throw in the pasta. When ready, drain and mix in tomato sauce and serve. Sprinkle a generous helping of diced eggplant onto each plate, a little pepper and plenty of grated ricotta salata, which is simply aged ricotta that has been pressed, dried and salted. It is hard, white and salty tasting.


  1. As we like fried aubergine, had better try this recipe. :)

  2. oh i love the sound of this pasta already. thanks for sharing this.

  3. I am scared of frying, too. My mom's friend burned half her arm and the scars are just terrible. But it looks like you did really well. I still prefer roasting the aubergine in the oven out of safety reasons.

  4. This looks delicious! I love fried eggplant. My mom fried eggplant when we were growing up as well although it was less italian and more "wisconsin". She would dip the pieces in beer batter, fry them up, and serve them with lemon juice and salt. So good!

  5. I recently made eggplant pasta too but mine was mashed. I like your recipe where there is no mashing of eggplant involved. Your pasta picture looks amazing too!

  6. Lindy, BBKD - this is so simple, yet so good. Real comfort food.
    MyKintheR - It was really easy and you don't need a huge pot full of oil. I think when you are as scared as we are, it is hard to make a mistake because we are so careful. There is something about frying eggplant that totally elevates its nature...promise me you will try it some time. You will never go back. Roasted aubergine is delicious but deep fried aubergine is a whole new vegetable!
    Julie - Hey, am willing to try the Wisconsin version, now that I am more confident. Sounds yummy. But have to try not to get too enthusiastic about deep frying or I will turn into an elephant.
    Cakewhiz - there is a lot more flavor (and of course calories, what can you do?) in this version. I recommend it.

  7. God! I'm salivating! This is my all time favorite pasta. Guess what, you're cooking next time you come to Cuneo!!

  8. Congrats on your honorary status! This is one of my favorite recipes in the summer when we have eggplant rolling in from the garden... But I don't fry... I dice it small these days and roast it... (which I believe I did on ur advice...) Guess it is time for me to step it up! This looks fabulous!

  9. Wonderful photos! This is one of my husband's favorite sauces.

  10. hehe congratulations on your honorary Sicilian citizenship! :D And what a dish to seal the deal with too ;)

  11. LOL you are too funny! And yay for the honorary Siciliana status! Perfetta! Gorgeous pasta dish and yay to you for frying! It scares me too. Great recipe.

  12. Love this pasta. Always have, must be cause I'm Sicilian

  13. Jamie - Grazie! Frying is so much easier than I expected it to be.
    I Sicilian - ciao cumpare!


Leave a suggestion, opinion or your own experience. I love hearing from you.