I think I have a pasta addiction. While away in Asia for a couple of weeks, I had a severe craving for pasta. Yes, I could have ordered it at one of the hotels but I try to always eat local when travelling.
Back in London, a bowl of comforting pasta beckoned. This is a quick and simple Sicilian recipe, Pasta Alla Norma, using the best summer produce, tomatoes and aubergines. This dish originates from Catania, the second city in Sicily. There are differing stories but is said to be named after the renowned 19th Century composer Vincenzo Bellini. It is said that a chef named this pasta dish after his famous opera Norma.
I am sure every Sicilian family will have their own interpretation of this dish, as with every Italian dish. The main ingredients of this dish is common in all variations.
Here, I have used Gennaro Contaldo’s version which roasts the aubergines in the new Bertolli with Butter (an olive oil and butter spread) instead of the traditional method of frying. Some recipes call for fresh tomatoes instead of tomato sauce. I use my home made tomato sauce which I make in big batches and slow cooked for maximum flavour. I also added some chilli flakes as I like to spike my food with chilli. This is an optional extra of course.
In Sicily, they use the round or egg shaped aubergines which are meant to be sweeter. In the UK we can only get the dark purple ones which are quite fleshy with a thick layer of skin or the long thin Asian ones. Either type will work for this dish. The cooking time will obviously vary depending on how you prepare the aubergines.
The shape you cut the aubergines can vary too. Some call for long strips and some call for cubes. Either works, it’s your choice. I used large cubes as they might disappear into the sauce if cut too small.
To plate up, you can line the aubergines along the bottom of the plate, create a mountain of pasta and top it with a generous grating of Ricotta Salata, plated to resemble Mount Etna. This is a drained, salted and dried version of Ricotta, not the soft cheese sold in tubs. If you can’t find this cheese, Parmigiano will work as well.
It doesn’t take very long to make this pasta recipe and it’s perfect for a weeknight vegetarian supper.
Pasta Ala Norma Fussilli with Roasted Aubergine in a Tomato Sauce
- 2 medium sized aubergines
- 60 g Bertolli with Butter & extra for greasing and cooking
- 1 medium sized onion finely chopped
- 1 red chilli finely chopped or some dried chilli flakes
- 40 taggiasca olives roughly chopped (Optional, I left this out)
- 400 ml passata
- 400 g fusilli pasta or any other pasta shape you have to hand
- large handful fresh basil leaves
- grated Ricotta Salata or Parmesan to serve
- Preheat the oven to 220°C (fan oven), Gas mark 9.
- Lightly grease a large ovenproof dish or roasting tin with Bertolli with Butter and set aside.
- Slice the aubergines lengthways into strips, cut into small cubes.
- Toss in a bit of olive oil, salt and chilli flakes and place in the prepared tin.
- Dot around a few spoonfuls of the Bertolli and Butter spread.
- Roast in the oven for about 15- 20 minutes until softened.
- Melt Bertolli with Butter in a large frying pan on a medium heat and sweat onion and chilli for a couple of minutes.
- Stir in olives and continue to cook for a minute.
- Add tomato passata or canned tomatoes.
- Season with salt and leave to cook on a medium to low heat for 15 minutes but the longer you leave it the more intense the flavour. If you use canned tomatoes, cook it until the tomatoes fall apart. .
- Meanwhile, place a large saucepan of salted water on the heat, bring to the boil and cook the fussilli until “al dente". I usually cook it about 1 minute less than the pack instructions as you still need to toss it in the sauce and it will cook further.
- While the pasta is cooking, add the roasted aubergine cubes and basil to the tomato sauce and continue to cook for 10 minutes.
- Drain the pasta, add to the sauce, toss well with a little of the cooking water to make a little sauce.
- Remove from the heat and serve immediately with a generous grating of Parmesan or Ricotta Salata if you can get some.
This recipe was done in association with Bertolli and was developed for Gennaro Contaldo. You can find more of pasta recipes on their website.