Pasta Alla Norma is one of those pasta recipes that’s so much more than the sum of its parts. Like the warm dew of a Sicilian summer morn, this dish is a composition of nature. You can almost hear the songbirds chirping in the distance as you inhale the fragrant Italian aroma.
This recipe is simple, yet elegant. It’s perhaps one of the most famous Italian pasta dishes, originating from Sicily and called after the heroine of a renowned opera.
In under an hour you’ll be the heroine of dinner and they’ll start requesting ‘Pasta Alla Momma!’ You may also like these easy vegetarian pasta dishes: lemon garlic pasta, cacio e pepe, and slow-roasted tomato and spaghetti
My love of Pasta Alla Norma is a deep mature kind of love harvested at its peak. I love the authentic Italian flavor and the fragrant herbs incorporated into the dish.
I love the way the penne rigate transports all that robust flavor by the forkful to my lungful waiting for taste buds. I could go on and on but here are some reasons for you to love it too!
- Flexible enough to be simple and elegant
- Ready in under an hour without tearing up the kitchen
- Wholesome & vegetarian – a great way to sneak in veggies
- A simple way to make any meal special
- No hard to find ingredients or crazy gadgets
How To Make Pasta Alla Norma Recipe
Making a delicious Pasta Alla Norma is a simple three-step process. While the name may sound deep and mysterious, it isn’t an overly complicated procedure. Just to ensure excellence the first time around, I’m gonna’ walk you through the whole thing, from start to finish.
Crafting this recipe is easier than it sounds but there are a few simple tips that can help you along the way. For instance, be generous when you salt your pasta water. I like to use about 2 tablespoons to 4 quarts of water. The pasta will absorb the salty water as it cooks, essentially flavoring it from the inside out.
You’ll also want to reserve some of your pasta water, so don’t pour it all down the drain when your pasta is done boiling. Pasta releases starch as it cooks. That starchy pasta water helps the sauce stick to the noodles for a nice even coating and it’s a great thickener for your sauce.
Lastly – eggplant! You’ll want to try to cut uniform pieces and add them in a single layer to a hot skillet. If the pieces are too close together, they won’t cook evenly.
Also, don’t drain the eggplant when you remove it to the plate. Eggplant soaks up oil when you sauté it. Bypassing the draining process helps amplify the sweeter characteristics imbuing your sauce with a deeper richer flavor.
Whipping up a yummy batch of this recipe doesn’t require a whole laundry load of ingredients which makes it a convenient option for weeknights and special occasions. Here’s what you need!
Olive Oil – You’ll want to use regular olive oil to sauté the eggplant and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to add to the sauce. It’ll help add a deep richness to your robust sauce.
Eggplant – I use regular ‘ole eggplant cut into half-inch cubes.
Anchovy Paste – Just a teaspoon of anchovy paste adds some salty savory umami flavor to your sauce. It’s best to err on the side of caution with new brands since manufacturers use different recipes and ingredient lists.
Garlic – Garlic is the cornerstone of Italian cuisine and adding chopped garlic to your pasta imparts a tangy fragrant flavor to your dish. Be sure to sauté it until you smell the lovely aroma.
Herbs – A lovely blend of Italian seasonings, oregano, and basil offers a sweet robust flavor combination.
Tomatoes – Using crushed tomatoes adds an heir of convenience while offering a pop of fresh flavor in every bite.
Spices – I add a combination of salt and red pepper flakes. A small amount of salt enhances flavor and the red pepper flakes offer just a hint of heat.
Sugar – Incorporating a pinch of sugar gives your red sauce slightly sweet undertones with a crave-worthy quality.
Cheese – Finishing the dish with a snowfall of shredded ricotta salata creates the perfect balance of beauty and flavor.
*Of course, you can use any pasta you wish to create this dish. I prefer tubed shaped pasta because there are plenty of nooks and crannies to fill up with that incredible sauce!
This recipe must be stored in the fridge to stay fresh and yummy. It keeps best in an airtight container or a resealable bag that will protect it from air and keep it from absorbing other flavors in the icebox. For best results, you’ll want to ensure it cools completely before preparing it for storage.
Can You Freeze This?
This recipe makes a fantastic freezer meal. Of course, pasta doesn’t freeze well so I suggest making a double batch of the sauce and freezing half of it. The sauce thaws easily so you’ll only need to boil up some pasta and dinner’s ready!
Make Ahead Tips
As with many robust Italian sauces, the flavor continues to develop in the fridge so you can make this recipe a day or two in advance. Then simply boil your pasta and combine it on serving day. If you aren’t sure when that’ll be you can always go the freezer route. Just don’t forget to reserve some of your starchy pasta water!
How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge?
This should stay fresh and yummy for 3-4 days in the fridge when stored properly but it won’t last that long once the family finds it. It’s best to keep it at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and reserve the FDA recommended 2-hour serving rule.
Pasta Alla Norma
- 1 pound tube shaped pasta
- 1/4 cup regular olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pinch granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/3 cup fresh basil, julienned
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup ricotta salata, shredded
- Cook pasta according to package instructions, in well-salted water, until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Cook eggplant in batches, without crowding, in a single layer until golden brown and soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Turn once, halfway through cooking. Remove to a plate (do not drain on paper towels) and cook the remaining eggplant adding more oil as needed.
- Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of well-salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add pasta and cook according to package instructions to al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water; drain pasta and transfer back to the cooking pot.
- Remove and discard all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the skillet. If you do not have that amount remaining, add olive oil to make up the difference. Turn the heat to low add anchovy paste, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant.
- Add tomatoes, salt, sugar, Italian seasoning, and oregano and increase heat and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 8-10 minutes.
- Add cooked eggplant back to the skillet, gently stir to mix in and simmer to heat through. Add basil and extra virgin olive oil and stir. Adjust salt and pepper. Pour sauce over cooked pasta. Stir in reserved pasta water, as needed, to adjust consistency, so sauce coats all the pasta. Portion out into individual bowls, sprinkle with Ricotta Salata and serve.
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If this recipe gets you excited and ready to whip up some other Italian delicacies, then I’ve got something for you! Here are some more pasta recipes you may want to put into your repertoire.
- Mushroom Pasta – Simple, wholesome and full of crave-worthy flavor.
- Lemon Garlic Pasta – A burst of fresh lemony flavor in every bite.
- Beefaroni – Chef Boyardee has nothing on this!
- Pasta Primavera – American inspired Italian cuisine with plenty of veggies!
- Greek Pasta – Easy, delicious and brimming with yummy flavors.
- Cacio E Pepe – It comes together quickly with a short ingredient list.
When you’re in the mood for awesome Italian cuisine with deep rich flavor and a fresh robust tomato-based sauce, you’ve got Pasta Alla Norma on the brain and you won’t be satisfied until you taste it. It’s a simple dish that makes it easy to treat the fam but it’s sophisticated enough for special occasions, too.
If you’ve never seen the Sicilian sunrise over the dew-kissed morn, then you’ve never tried this recipe. Its time to whip up a batch and see what you’ve been missing!