Spaghetti with Eggplant & Tomato Sauce (Pasta alla Norma)
Serves 4 – 6
Pasta all Norma comes from Catania, a city in eastern Sicily, and is named after Catania native Vincenzo Bellini’s famous opera, Norma. Traditionally, eggplant for Pasta all Norma is fried, as described by Signora Clementina. Because fried eggplant absorbs a lot of oil, I oven-roast it instead. If you want to fry the eggplant, sprinkle the eggplant slices with a lot of salt and let drain for an hour or so (salt collapses eggplant’s cell structure and helps reduce its oil absorption). Rinse off the salt, pat the eggplant dry, fry in olive oil until the slices are golden brown, and drain on paper towels.
2 pounds ripe tomatoes or 2 15-ounce cans whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 cup roughly chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or mint
1/4 olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper or 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 globe eggplants
Freshly ground black pepper
Make the Tomato Sauce: Put the tomatoes, onions, basil and salt in a large pot and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Put the tomato mixture through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds. Return the tomato mixture to the pot with the olive oil and sugar. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring regularly. Taste and add salt, as needed.
Make the Eggplant: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Slice the eggplant into 1/2” cross-wise slices. Brush the slices on both sides with olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake the eggplant for 15 minutes or until the eggplant slices are golden brown, remove from the oven, and let cool. Cut into 1” wide slices. Add the eggplant to the tomato sauce and stir gently, being careful not to break up the eggplant slices.
Make Pasta alla Norma: Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until it is al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta to the pot and stir in the reserved pasta water, olive oil, garlic, and freshly ground black pepper. Add all but 1 cup of the Tomato and Eggplant Sauce and toss with the pasta. Pour the sauced pasta into a large bowl and top with the remaining sauce and crumbled cheese. Serve immediately.