By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
Today, I'd love to share an original taste of Sicily with you with an iconic Sicilian dish—Pasta alla Norma. This pastasciutta (dry pasta) is poetry in your mouth. It has the passionate flavor of my country—rich, fresh, genuine, easy-to cook, and so good!
Pasta alla Norma is made with maccheroni (macaroni), tomato (fresh or canned), fried eggplant, garlic, and a touch of fresh basil. If you are lucky and can find smoked hard Ricotta (it's not easy to find—even in Florence), you can cook the dish just like the original recipe, but it's very good with Pecorino cheese as well.
The dish originates from the nineteenth century and belongs to the tradition of Catania, a beautiful Sicilian city. There are two versions of the story regarding its origins. One tells the tale of a famous writer, journalist, and playwright named Nino Martoglio. Legend has it that when he tasted this pasta he exclaimed, “This is a Norma!” comparing his emotion after tasting the dish to the magnificent opera Norma.
The other version states that this delicious pasta was first served at the theatre La Scala on December 26, 1831, during the the world premiere of Bellini’s famous opera.
It doesn't matter what the origin is; it's all romantic, and Pasta alla Norma is delicious!
Pasta alla Norma
14 oz (400 g) maccheroni (macaroni) short pasta
1 large eggplant
1 clove of garlic
14 oz. (400 g) tomato sauce
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh basil leaves
Ricotta Salata, grated (alternatively, Pecorino)
Salt and pepper to taste
Make a simple sauce by sauteing the garlic and tomato sauce with finely chopped basil. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, slice the eggplant into 1/2" slices. Fry them in the olive oil until nicely browned and softened. Place the fried eggplant on paper towels to drain the excess oil. You will have to fry the eggplant in batches.
Tradition requires that you cook the maccheroni (macaroni) in boiling salted water until it is al dente. When the pasta is ready, drain and toss in the tomato sauce.
Plate with fried eggplant slices and a garnish of fresh basil and smoked salted ricotta grated on top. If you can’t find the salted ricotta, you can use aged pecorino.
And now, for your listening pleasure, the diva Maria Callas singing "Casta Diva" from Bellini's Norma!
Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), and Superfoods, Ippo is currently finishing her latest work, The Lords of Florence (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).