Monday, 27 July 2009

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma is one of widely loved pasta dishes originating in Sicilia (city of Catania to be exact). According to the legend, the name Norma comes from Bellini's opera Norma. the composer hails from Catania and the fans who were taken by the beauty and the excellence of this opera starting to use "alla Norma" to express something particularly well crafted, and this includes this recipe.

Pasta alla norma (Sicilia)

80-120g of dry pasta a person, depending on appetite/custom*
for 4 people (with 320-480g pasta)
2 slender type aubergene, cleaned and sliced in 1cm thickness then quartered
3-4 shallots or 1 onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic
olive oil (to fry, as needed)
6-7 firm, ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped(peeled if prefered)
salt and pepper
Ricotta salata**
fresh basil leaves
coarse granuled salt

Soak the aubergene chunks in a large bowl of cold water, sprinkle some salt and leave for about 30min.-1hour

Rinse the aubergene, pat dry very well.

Fry the aubergene in hot oil until golden, taking care not to burn. Drain the excess oil on an absorbent paper and keep warm.

Sautè the shallot/onion and garlic until tender and golden in a large skillet.

Add the chopped tomatoes, season with salt and pepper.

Cook further until excess liquids are somewhat thickened.

Toss together piping hot pasta cooked al dente, tomato mixture, aubergene.

Dress the pasta with chopped basil leaves and freshly grated ricotta salata generously and serve hot.

*use your choice of pasta shape, short or long. My personal favourites are orecchiette, penne or fusilli.

**ricotta salata is a Sicilian specialty, much more solid and much less moist than regular ricotta and salted. If not available aged pecorino (ideally Siciliano) or parmigiano reggiano can be used.

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