Is it normal? (PASTA ALLA NORMA)September 24, 2013
The other day I quickly typed up how to prepare Pasta alla Norma in an email for a friend. He was looking for delicious stuff he can cook in less than 30 minutes and I was looking for things I could type in less than five. This is definitely one of my go-to pasta recipes. I remember leaving similar directions on a friend’s voicemail when she asked me for an easy but interesting pasta recipe for a last minute dinner party.
Pasta alla Norma hails from southern Italy, as does the majority of my ancestors. With its mixture of textures and temperatures it raises the bar considerably on regular old pasta with red sauce without too much more effort. Traditionally it is made with ricotta salata, a firm, salted version of soft, curdy ricotta but I use either (or both!) since I love the cool, creamy contrast of soft ricotta with warm, chunky tomatoes and silky eggplant. And, having a tub of ricotta on the table next to my pasta reminds me of my grandpa, Cranky Franky, who was always pretty happy to be piling cheese on top of his pasta. This might be hereditary.
THE QUICKEST PASTA NORMA
- dice up 1 eggplant into bite-sized pieces (or two if they are the small kind)
- toss it with some oil and salt and place on a baking sheet.
- bake in a hot oven (400F) until browned (10 min), set aside.
- meanwhile, cook up a box of pasta (rigatoni is how my grandma did it)
- and make/heat up your fave tomato sauce (quick recipe follows)
- when the sauce is warmed up and almost ready to eat, mix in the roasted eggplant (scrape the browned bits off of the pan and get them in there, the oil too….that is flavor, man).
- also drop some fresh basil leaves into the sauce and some parmesan.
- taste the sauce for seasoning. add salt, pepper, garlic or red pepper flakes to bring out the awesomeness.
- plate the pasta, top it generously with the eggplant/tomato sauce and add a spoonful of fresh ricotta cheese on top of it all.
In an equally informal way, here is how I make tomato sauce with my brain off:
TOMATO SAUCE ON THE FLY
- for every large can diced tomatoes, use one small onion. and 4 cloves of garlic, minced.
- start by sauteing the onions in a bit of oil with a pinch of salt, pepper and some red pepper flakes until onion is translucent, about 7 minutes.
- add a few glugs of whatever red wine is laying around.
- when the wine is reduced to almost nothing, add the tomatoes and minced garlic. simmer gently for 15 minutes or more. the longer it simmers the thicker it will be.
- when done, stir in a small handful of basil leaves. i always let the sauce rest a while before serving it (at least 10 minutes). reheat if necessary. check for seasoning and serve.