Pasta alla Norma
I love Pasta alla Norma. It was the first dish my boyfriend cooked for me and it takes me back to sun-soaked holidays in Italy. The rich combination of roasted eggplants, ripe tomatoes, and the finishing touch of Ricotta salata never dissappoints. It's a perfect easy weekmeal and it helps to brighten up your January.
Ricotta Salata is aged, salted ricotta, typically made from sheep's milk. It's quite firm and salty, offering a distinct contrast to the creamy texture of regular ricotta. Ricotta itself is crafted from whey, the byproduct of cheese-making. The name "Ricotta" translates to "cooked again": the whey is cooked once more and then molded into shapes. Unfortunately, Ricotta salata may not be readily available everywhere, but you can find it in Italian stores and well-stocked cheese shops. Alternatively, you can substitute it with pecorino or firm feta cheese.
Pasta alla Norma:
- 400g rigatoni or spaghetti
- 4 large ripe tomatoes, diced
- 2 eggplants, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional for heat)
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, torn
- 200g Ricotta salata, grated
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Sunflower oil (if you are going to fry the aubergine)
- There are two ways to prepare the aubergine. You can either fry it (in sunflower oil) or you put the aubergine in the oven. In that case you should preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F ). Place the diced eggplants on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt. Roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until golden and softened.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes (if using), sauté until fragrant.
- Add the diced tomatoes to the skillet, and cook until they break down and form a sauce. Season with salt and black pepper.
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente.
- Once the eggplants are done, add them to the tomato sauce in the skillet. Mix well.
- Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the skillet, tossing everything together to coat the pasta in the sauce.
- Stir in torn basil and half of the grated Ricotta salata.
- Serve the Pasta alla Norma hot, garnished with the remaining Ricotta salata and additional fresh basil.
Enjoy this flavorful Sicilian dish with the unique touch of Ricotta salata!