Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury to cook every night, but I do make an effort to try 1-2 times a week. It’s not always something fancy, in fact it is usually something quick and simple and pasta is an item that makes it to our dinner table quite frequently. Last night was one of those nights I wanted to whip up a healthy meal quickly and decided on the vegetarian Pasta alla Norma.
This classic Italian pasta dish originates from Sicily, and is named after a famous opera by Vincenzo Bellini called Norma. It’s ingredients are fried eggplant, tomatoes, ricotta salata and basil and often tossed in penne pasta.
Something I learned from cooking this dish is that ricotta salata is a pressed, dried and salted variation of ricotta. You can’t find ricotta salta everywhere, so if you are making this dish and can’t find this cheese, you can substitute in pecorino romano or feta.
To keep this meal healthy, I choose a recipe that didn’t require frying the eggplant. Also note that it is important to salt the eggplants to drain out the bitter juices.
Pasta alla Norma
2 cups penne rigate
200 g eggplant
500 mL chopped tomato, canned
1/2 medium yellow onion
1 clove garlic
5 basil leaves
1 tbsp olive oil
ricotta salata cheese
salt & pepper
Cut the eggplant into 1-1 1/2″ cubes and in a colander, add salt and allow the excess water to draw out. Drain for 15-20 minutes.
Roughly chop the garlic and dice the onions.
When the eggplant is ready, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pan and saute the onions and garlic until the onions are slightly translucent. Add the chopped eggplant and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped tomato, salt and pepper and bring to a boil, and them simmer on medium low heat for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add salt and the penne, cook until al dente.
Tear the basil leaves into the sauce, toss in the penne and crumble the ricotta salata over the dish.
In the photos I’ve taken here, I didn’t toss the penne into the sauce, instead I poured the sauce over the penne. I thought the photos looked prettier this way. But it definitely tastes better when you toss everything together.