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Pasta a la Norma

Posted by Neil McGregor on


After being inspired by the beauty and sheer volume of the aubergines in Sicily last year, we made the traditional purchase of the local cookbook, in this case “Sicily in the Kitchen” by Maria di Marco and Marie Ferré.  Pasta a la Norma seemed a fairly run of the mill pasta dish, but its simplicity hides a beautiful, complex combination of flavours and textures.  We all loved it, and knew we’d found a new favourite for home.

Then suddenly Pasta a la Norma was everywhere!  ABC Classic FM described how Bellini’s opera Norma was considered perfection, so anything perfect was “a la Norma”.   Then Rick Stein cooked it on television, and told a similar story.  Then we were seeing it on traditional Italian restaurant menus everywhere.

So eventually it twigs that Pasta a la Norma is quite a famous dish, and of course comes with many variations.  The recipe below is our mash up of a few of them, and goes really well with the newly released 2017 Riesling, the wine cutting through the richness of the fried eggplant and complementing the acidity of the tomatoes and goat’s cheese.

Ingredients

 

400g dried spaghetti (or other pasta)

 

500g passata

 

a few leaves of basil

 

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

 

salt to taste

 

2 large eggplants

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed

150g goats cheese or fetta or ricotta insalata

1-2 tsp sugar to taste

oil for frying

 

Method

 

Leaving the skin on the eggplants, slice across in half, then cut into 1cm X 1cm “battons” (alternatively, just cut lengthways into thin strips, but we prefer the chunkier version).  Salt for 30mins, then rinse and dry.

Fry batches of eggplant in hot oil until golden, then drain.

Gently soften the garlic in olive oil, then add passata and reduce to a thickish sauce.  Add sugar, salt and basil to taste.

Cook the spaghetti al dente, drain and dress with tomato sauce and fried eggplant.  Sprinkle with crumbled cheese and a few leaves of basil.

Serve 4 as a main or 8 as a first course.


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