Traditional Sicilian Pasta alla Norma
Sicilian Eggplant Pasta, a Montalbano Favourite
I'm a great fan of Inspector Montalbano, the fictional detective created by Andrea Camilleri.
Montalbano loves his food and there's always a mention, in almost every chapter, of the fine Sicilian dishes he enjoys. So I had to try cooking some of these recipes myself!
I've made Pasta con le Sarde (pasta with sardine sauce) many times and told my dinner guests it's an Ancient Roman recipe (the fish sauce is my excuse) and had much success with Caponata (eggplant salad), but I've never tried Montalbano's beloved Pasta alla Norma.
This traditional Sicilian eggplant pasta dish was a first for me.
Pasta alla Norma
Who is Norma?
Why does she have a recipe named for her?
Bellini's Opera, Norma, first produced in 1831, was considered to be so brilliant that his delighted compatriots started using the new superlative una vera Norma (A real Norma), which was used to praise the merits of a product or a deed.
Years later when theatrical producer Nino Martoglio tasted this typical regional dish, he was overwhelmed by its flavours, and called it Spaghetti alla Norma.
450-500 grams of spaghetti or any other long pasta
olive oil to fry the eggplants
tomatoes, onion and garlic for the sauce
200 grams ricotta salata
Prepare the Eggplants
Cut the eggplants lengthways and sprinkle with a bit of salt.
Leave them for a little over an hour in a colander, then wash under running water, squeeze, and cut into slices.
If you can't find it, use feta
Ricotta isn't the name of a cheese, it's the name of a cheese-making process and means ""recooked".
Salata means 'salted', so Ricotta Salata is a simple salted cheese, processed in the ricotta style.
The milk curds and whey used to make this cheese are pressed and dried before the cheese is aged. The result is a pure white cheese, not at all crumbly or with that scrambled-egg texture common to what is mainly sold as ricotta.
Ricotta Salata has a dense but slightly spongy texture and a salty, milky flavour. It's somewhat like a dry Italian feta. This is the cheese you must use to make Pasta alla Norma.
Tomato Sauce - Wirh either fresh or canned tomatoes
Fry an onion and two cloves of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil.
Add a large can of Roma tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, salt and freshly ground pepper.
Cook for approximately 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
Once the sauce has thickened, give it a quick whizz in your blender or food processor.
Pour the sauce back into the pan and reduce for another 5 minutes.
Gently Sauté the Eggplant
After your eggplants have been sitting for an hour or so, rinse and pat dry.
Dab them lightly in flour so they won't soak up oil.
Put the water on to boil for your pasta
Fry the eggplant slices in hot olive oil, a few at a time, about two minutes on each side. Wipe off the excess oil.
When the pasta is ready (al dente!), place it in a large serving bowl.
First add the ricotta salata; mix well into the spaghetti.
Add the tomato sauce, and lay the sliced eggplant over.
Tear up the the basil, place it over the top of the mixture. Stir in lightly.
Serve with focaccia in Sicilian style, or with crusty bread.
Prep Time: i hour to soak eggplants, 10 minutes prep time
Total Time: 30 mins
- 450 -500 grams of spaghetti or any other long pasta
- 3 eggplants
- olive oil to fry the eggplants
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 2 teaspoons plain all purpose flour
- tomatoes onion and garlic for the sauce
- 1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
- 200 grams ricotta salata
- Cut the eggplants lengthways and sprinkle with salt.
- Leave them for a little over an hour in a colander, wash under running water, squeeze, and cut into slices.
- Fry in hot olive oil, a few at a time, about two minutes on each side. Wipe off excess oil.
- Bring a pot of water to the boil and add 500 grams of pasta. Cook 20 mins or so until al dente.
- When cooked, drain and pour into a large bowl. Stir in 200g of grated ricotta salata. Mix well.
- Pour the tomato sauce over and arrange the eggplant slices on top.
- Lightly mix torn basil leaves through.
Sicilian Tomato Sauce Recipe
Recipe Susanna Duffy
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
- large onion
- large can Roma tomatoes
- large pinch of sugar
- pinch of salt
- pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- Fry an onion and two cloves of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil.
- Add a large can of Roma tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Cook for approximately 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Once the sauce has thickened, give it a quick whizz in your blender or food processor.
- Pour the sauce back into the pan and reduce for another 5 minutes.
More Recipes inspired by Montalbano
Traditional Sicilian Arancini
These little balls are Arancini, deep- fried rice croquettes coated with breadcrumbs, filled with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and peas. The Sicilians have been making them for a thousand years.
Caponata is somewhere between a salad and a stew.
Pile it on top of fresh crusty bread for a perfect lunch. Use more liquid and pour it as a sauce over pasta for a hearty vegetarian dinner.
Traditional Pasta with Cauliflower
Pasta with cauliflower is so simple to put together that my first attempt was enthusiastically received by my dinner guests. I've never used cauliflower like this before but I certainly will be in future.
© 2010 Susanna Duffy