03 October 2007
what's cooking wednesday:
pasta alla norma

I apologize in advance to those who expressed their dislike of eggplant/aubergine when I stuffed them a few weeks ago...because we're going at the melanzane again today.

For this week's What's Cooking Wednesday, we're pairing them with tomatoes, basil, garlic, onions, and pecorino cheese in Pasta alla Norma, a Sicilian dish whose origins are in dispute (read more here) but always involve Catania's own Vincenzo Bellini and one of his most famous operas, "Norma."

I should probably add an "alla Sognatrice" at the end of the name of this dish because this is my take on the traditional recipe, which includes a kind of cheese called ricotta salata. It's not all that easy to find, so I substituted pecorino, as did blogging buddy Sara over at Ms Adventures in Italy recently.

Other differences: some recipes call for sliced eggplant, but I prefer it diced, and almost all require you to crumble the ricotta salata cheese--I could've done that with the pecorino, I suppose, but I prefer it grated.

You're free to do as you like of course.

Pasta alla Norma

pasta alla norma
4 small eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Peperoncino to taste
1 can of diced tomatoes
8-10 basil leaves, torn
Spaghetti or penne pasta

Wash and dice eggplant. Place in colander and salt well, being sure to coat all sides (use coarse salt if you have it). Let sit for about a half hour and then remove eggplant from colander and pat dry.

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant and cook until brown on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Add onion, garlic and peperoncino, and then after a few minutes, add tomatoes. Let simmer for about 15 minutes or until the tomatoes are done to your taste.

In the meantime, prepare pasta in large pot of boiling water.

When sauce is just about finished, add basil, and then combine pasta and sauce--enough to coat the pasta.

Serve immediately with cheese on top.

Buon appetito!

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Blogger weimie said...

Yum... looks fab to me!

I ran across you over at NaBloPoMo, which I signed up for last night. :o) I'm at -

I lived in Italy for 3 years - LONGGGGG time ago, and love, love, love all things Italian still. I'm going to enjoy looking around your blog!

Have a great day!

Blogger Jane said...

I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the looks of this dish! I think I'll be making it this weekend! I simply love the freshness and simple ingredients of your dishes!

Happy Wednesday :)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That looks so yummy!! l love melanzane. Have you ever tried the eggplant and chocolate dish?

Blogger Michael C said...

Oh wow do I wish I knew how to cook right about now!

Anonymous Sara said...


I never buy eggplant, because my true love won't eat it and so it just goes to waste in my fridge while I wait to have time to cook it for myself. (sigh) But I can live vicariously through you.

Viva la melanzane! (Il melanzane? )

Blogger KC said...

That looks delicious, and just in time- I bought a whole mess of eggplants the other day because there was a special. Is it really not easy to find ricotta salata where you are?

Blogger Beckie said...

That looks delicious! Today is the big Delurk...I stop by here quite a bit, but I don't comment often.

Blogger sognatrice said...

Weimie, nice to see you here! Hope you're enjoying your look through :)

Jane, simple and fresh are definitely key words around here. Happy Wednesday to you as well :)

Cleopantha, haven't tried eggplant and chocolate, but considering how much I love them both, well....

Michael, give it a try! It's not hard, I promise (and you can always donate any experiments gone *really* awry to local strays or something).

Sara, la melanzana (one)/le melanzane (two or more). Someday we'll have to have an eggplant fest....

KC, I have a bunch more eggplants too--good thing we like them so much!

As for the ricotta salata, well, it's not immediately available in the small store in my village, which means I have to go hunting around a bit for it down in the Marina (and most don't always carry it as it's not a huge seller). It's not too, too difficult to find, but it's definitely not something I'd have on hand for last minute decisions on meals (which is how we make things around here 9 times out of 10).

Beckie, hello! I didn't realize it was the Great De-lurk! I need to get on that! Thanks for letting me know (and delurking, although you've commented before, I'm sure) :)

Blogger Sam said...

Looks great! I am not a fan of eggplant but I am sure I could love it was some pasta, it makes everything better. ;)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yum! Can't wait to try this!!

MMm...eggplant. I think it's become my favorite vegetable.

Something I could do in the kitchen!
pick pretty leaves and stick them in food that someone else cooked!


Scarlett & V.

Blogger Figs Olives Wine said...

Pasta alla Norma is our favorite in this house!!! I'm no eggplant lover, but I defy anyone not to fall in love with pasta alla norma at first bite! We have it with puddles of creamy fresh ricotta here and there rather than the salata - either way, heaven!

Blogger Tarie said...

Have you noticed how I'm always here for "What's Cooking Wednesday"? Haha. Just call me Miss Piggy. ;) I hate eggplants, but you make them seem yummy. Heehee. Advanced Happy Birthday!!! :)

Blogger sognatrice said...

Sam, you're so right--everything *is* better with pasta!

Beth, it's a keeper, trust me :)

Sara, me too, and I can't believe I never really ate it back in the US...so much lost time to make up!

Scarlett, yeah! We've found you a job! You can also take the photos if you like :)

Amanda, if I can manage to coordinate a day with fresh ricotta *and* eggplants in the house, I'll definitely try that. Yum!

Tarie, hey you're welcome to visit whenever you like--at least there's always food in the house on Wednesdays ;)

Blogger Leanne said...

Stop with the photos! I am starving and I love, love, love pasta norma! I am going to print it now and add it to my 'bleeding espresso cook book'

Blogger sognatrice said...

Leanne, how fun! When we meet in person, I'll be sure to autograph it free of charge ;)

Anonymous mymelange said...


That looks delicious!!! And I love ricotta salata...not as much as ricotta though ;)


Blogger Jen said...

This looks completely amazing. When I pick up eggplants at the farmer's market on Saturday, I'm set. And we can get ricotta salata easily around here. It's an interesting cheese.

My mom made eggplant dishes all the time. Sometimes my dad would serve it sauted for breakfast. However, for some reason, I never buy it.

I will try this recipe.

Guess what's for dinner tonight?! Sounds delicious. I love melanzana!

Blogger sognatrice said...

Robin, welcome back!

Jen, yeah! Get those eggplants!

NYC, it's time to make friends with le melanzane di nuovo ;)

Miss Mrs, buon appetito!

Blogger Audra said...

oh my god... oh my god... it brings me back to my childhood.

thanks :)

Blogger BipolarLawyerCook said...

Looks delicious, despite my non love of eggplant. But that's what zucchini is for! Enjoying your archives, thanks for stopping by at NaBloPoMo! Looking forward to catching up on your posts.

Anonymous Erin said...

That looks fabulous!

Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

That looks wonderful, but do I really have to make it myself? Couldn't I just come to your house for dinner (or lunch)?

I could be there in what, eight hours?

Blogger sognatrice said...

Audra, you're so cute...your childhood was like a few months ago (just kidding, of course, I know what you mean!) ;)

Bipolarlawyercook, happy to see you here! I look forward to catching up with your posts too (and come on, a little eggplant won't kill you--although I make no guarantees of course) ;)

Erin, thanks!

Cyndi, so long as you give us an hour notice, it'll be ready! Ah, and do give us un squillo when you're about 15 minutes out so we can put the water on for the pasta ;)

Blogger A Novelist said...

YUM YUM YUM! I know what I'm making John for dinner this evening... ;)

Thanks for sharing!

Blogger beachbungalow8 said...

yum. my mouth is literally watering.

Blogger salemhouse said...

This sounded so good...and it was! I made it tonight for my husband, and loved the zip from the peppers. It's a keeper!

Blogger sognatrice said...

Novelist, hope John enjoyed it :)

Beachbungalow8, step away from the computer slowly ;)

Salemhouse, yeah! Thanks so much for coming back to let me know!

Blogger Emily said...

My mouth is watering! Yum!

Blogger sognatrice said...

Emily, be careful not to drip on your computer ;)

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