Spaghetti alla Norma
Sicilian recipe

This traditional Sicilian eggplant pasta dish was renamed Spaghetti alla Norma as a tribute to composer Vincenzo Bellini, born in Catania. Legend has it that Bellini’s fellow countrymen, transported by the beauty of his opera, came up with a new expression—una vera Norma (a real Norma)—which was used to praise the excellence of a product or action. Several years passed before author Nino Martaglio, who was in complete ecstasy upon tasting this typical regional dish for the first time, renamed it Spaghetti alla Norma. The recipe remains as simple and succulent as it was years ago.

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 450 to 500 g spaghetti
  • 3 eggplants (as fresh as possible)
  • coarse salt
  • flour
  • olive oil, for frying eggplant
  • tomato sauce (see recipe below)
  • 6 to 10 leaves of basil
  • 200 g crumbled salata ricotta (salted ricotta)

 
Cut off the ends of the eggplants and thinly slice (if you prefer, you can cut them into cubes).

On a cutting board, spread the slices in layers, sprinkling each of them with salt. Place the cutting board on a rack to allow the liquid to drain directly into the sink.

Cover the eggplant with a weighted object (such as a saucepan filled with water) and allow them to sweat for two hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the tomato sauce. Brown an onion and two cloves of minced chopped garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add a large can of tomatoes (imported from Italy) or, in season, 700 g of diced fresh tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Roughly crush the tomatoes in a saucepan and allow to reduce for about 5 minutes.

Once you have allowed the slices of eggplant to sweat, rinse and dry them. Lightly flour the eggplant slices to prevent them from absorbing the oil.

Boil water for your pasta and heat the tomato sauce if needed. Meanwhile, fry the eggplant slices in hot olive oil (about 400°F/205°C), a few at a time, for about 2 minutes per side. Sponge them off and keep them hot.

When the pasta is ready (al dente!), drain it and place it in on a big serving plate. Add the salata ricotta (available in the best grocery stores) for an authentic recipe, making sure it is well blended with the pasta. Then, add the tomato sauce, basil and he eggplant. Stir and serve immediately.

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