Pasta alla norma is a delicious vegetarian Sicilian pasta recipe made with deep-fried eggplant, chopped tomatoes, sliced garlic, fresh basil, and grated Ricotta Salata cheese (similar to parmesan reggiano). Making the authentic recipe can be a little involved. Boiling and prepping fresh tomatoes and frying the eggplant will require a generous hour or more to pull together.
My pasta alla norma recipe is a simplified and approachable variation made with roasted eggplant and canned plum tomatoes. It’s actually inspired by a recipe Patty ordered at a restaurant. It was essentially pasta alla norma without me realizing it.
This recipe lacks nothing in terms of freshness and tremendous flavor and is on the table in 40 minutes or less. Date-night worthy and weeknight approved.
What Tomatoes Should I Buy?
Look for Tuttorosso’s canned, peeled plum tomatoes. They come prepared as precooked whole peeled tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are already juicy and more tender than fresh tomatoes and just need to be chopped into rough 1/2 inch cubes before making the sauce. Think of it as a nice head start.
You probably won’t end up using any of the tomato juice in the can other than maybe 1/3 of a cup at the very end if the sauce appears too dry. This is more of a personal preference. The end result of the sauce is a somewhat chunky rustic tomato sauce.
Roasting Versus Deep Frying Eggplant
Fried eggplant is one of the defining characteristics of pasta alla Norma. That said, roasting the eggplant on a baking sheet with oil, salt, and pepper shaves off a lot of time, saves olive oil, and makes the recipe healthier. You can pan fry the eggplant in olive oil if you want a more authentic version of the recipe. Just note the eggplant tends to soak up a lot of oil. It’s like a sponge.
Prep the eggplant by slicing off and discarding the ends (No need to peel). Slice widthwise into 1-inch disks and then cut into strips. From here you can slice into rough 1 inch cubes.
Breadcrumbs are my own addition that differs from the authentic Sicilian dish. The breadcrumbs set this dish off and deliver an awesome crunchy texture you absolutely need in a simple pasta dish with minimal and simple ingredients. You can use plain or Italian style.
I add the breadcrumbs at the very end by sprinkling over the plated dish along with additional cheese and chopped basil. Think of it as a final garnish.
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A simplified pasta alla norma recipe made with roasted eggplant, canned plum tomatoes, fresh basil, breadcrumbs, and grated ricotta salata. Delicious and weeknight approved.
- 1 large eggplant, cubed
- 1 pound rigatoni pasta
- 2 28-ounce cans peeled plum tomatoes, chopped (reserve 1/3 cup tomato juice, discard rest)
- 1 cup roughly chopped basil
- 1/2 cup coarsely grated ricotta salata or parmigiano-reggiano (plus more for garnish)
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Slice eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Arrange on a greased baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss until coated. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook al dente.
- Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large high-rimmed pan or skillet. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and simmer for 1 minute. Add chopped basil and cook for 30 seconds or until leaves start to darken.
- Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and let simmer for about 10 minutes until tomatoes tenderize and soften. Remove eggplant from the oven and scrape into the pan. Toss with the tomato sauce until incorporated.
- Strain the rigatoni and add to the sauce. Fold until fully coated in the sauce. If the sauce seems a little too dry, you can add a little of the reserved tomato juice from the can. This is optional and a preference. Fold in ricotta salata.
- Serve topped with a teaspoon of breadcrumbs sprinkled all over and additional chopped fresh basil and ricotta cheese.
Roasting eggplant on a baking sheet tossed in some oil with salt and pepper shaves off a lot of time, saves oil, and makes the recipe healthier. You can pan fry the cubed eggplant in olive oil until golden if you want a more authentic version of the recipe.
Keywords: rigatoni pasta recipes, pasta alla norma recipe