Pasta alla Norma
Continuing our sensory journey in the beautiful lands of the south of Italy, precisely in Sicily, I would like to share with you all the delight of a couple more dishes that can easily be prepared at home. Cooking this food and presenting it on the table for your family will make you feel on vacation all year around. I already mentioned previously my love affair with eggplants, and, of course eggplants are one of the main ingredients of this dish as well, along with juicy, sweet tomatoes, and ricotta salata.
The magical and attractive attributes of this land are all concentrated in this simple, yet exquisite dish, which was first presented in the city of Catania and takes it’s name from the Vincenzo Bellini’s opera called “Norma”. The reason for this? Because the opera and the dish equal in excellence, so they say…check this out below and you’ll get an idea.
After having listened to such breathtaking and jaw-dropping music and having gathered all the possible inspiration that only art can convey we can put on our aprons, get in the kitchen and unleash the cooking goddess that is in us!
- Ricotta salata, 1 cup
- Eggplants, 3 medium size
- Olive oil, 2 Tbsp
- Garlic, 2 cloves
- Tomatoes, 3 big size
- Basil, 1/2 cup
Pour the olive oil in a pan and let it warm up, add the whole garlic cloves and by lifting one edge of the pan let the garlic steep in the oil and let it slightly brown on the outside. This will transfer the taste of the garlic to the oil. Pay close attention not to burn it. When the garlic looks golden in color add the cut up tomatoes and let it cook and simmer until the tomatoes will have released its juice, about 15 to 20 minutes. Once the tomatoes are cooked, with a mixer blend them until you get a smooth, sauce like consistency. Pour the tomato sauce back in the pan and turn the flame back on, on low heat for another 10-to 15 minutes until the sauce is reduced and the consistency is less liquid.
Fill a pot with water, set it on the stove and when it starts to boil add 2 Tbsp of coarse salt. In the meantime, wash the eggplants and cut them in rather thin slices. Pour some olive oil in a pan, let it warm and then add the round slices of the eggplant. Cook until both sides are slightly browned, do not flip often, just twice if you can. Once ready, the eggplant slices can be disposed on a paper towel so that the excess oil gets absorbed. Sprinkle them with salt to taste.
Meanwhile, the water has started to boil and has been salted. The pasta can be placed into the water to cook until it is still slightly hard, or I should say: “al dente”! At this point drain the pasta and add the tomato sauce and the basil. Gently mix. Place the pasta on to the serving plates, garnish each plate with the eggplant slices, basil leaves and the coarsely grated ricotta salata. Little tip: make enough eggplant to have extra to place in the middle of table for your guests in case they would like to add a few more slices to their pasta as they are eating. Enjoy! And Cheers!
Cheers to the beauty that life has to offer in all its forms, colors and shapes, like this corner of paradise called Scopello, right in front of me, right now. Aren’t we lucky to live on such an amazing planet?!
Photo by Simone Ciaschi