I went to Switzerland for a weekend recently and while I was there my hosts introduced me to a Sicilian pasta called Pasta alla Norma. Who’s Norma, you may ask? The story goes that in the 19th century a Sicilian theatre director was so enamoured of this pasta when he tasted it for the first time, he compared it to Bellini’s opera of the same name. And it stuck.
Not unlike the vegetables I roasted to make this version.
After I had this in Switzerland I bought my first aubergine and researched recipes. Eschewing Jamie Oliver’s (chilli flakes and other questionable ideas) I found a Guardian piece that tried various approaches. The best was a version that baked the aubergine rather than frying it. And so that is the method I now use.
I’ve made this a few times now. This time I had a coffin-dodging orange pepper and cherry tomatoes in the fridge so I roasted those in with the aubergine.
Cheese – traditionally you’d use ricotta. I’ve never had that in so have always gone with pecorino or parmesan which work fine for me.
What to use – serves 2
- 1 large aubergine cut into 2cm dice
- (one red, orange or yellow pepper cut into dice – optional)
- 1 400g tin of tomatoes (or the equivalent amount of fresh)
- 25g fresh basil (I used frozen)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbsp chopped shallots (optional)
- olive oil
- 2 tbsp grated cheese
How to use it
As mentioned above, I roasted my veg rather than frying. I have made this recipe by first salting and washing the aubergine to remove bitterness and also by not salting – I have noticed no difference and no bitterness. So this time, no pre-salting.
Chop and toss the veg in a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast for 20-30 minutes until caramelised. I also roasted the garlic cloves at the same time.
When the veg is roasted, set to one side and sauté the shallots. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skin, chop/squash and add to the shallots.
Add the tomatoes, a pinch of salt and half the basil. I used frozen this time – about a table spoon.
Bring to a bubble and let the sauce reduce down for about 10 minutes. Add the roasted veg and continue to gently bubble for about 10 minutes.
When you’re ready to eat, boil your pasta, drain, and combine with the sauce, then serve with your choice of cheese and some more basil on top.