recipe: pasta a la norma

It’s Sicily’s ubiquitous pasta dish but one that doesn’t seem to have made its way onto many UK neighbourhood Italian restaurants and it is our loss as this a classic. Slightly bitter, soft aubergines with sweet tomatoes and salty, fresh ricotta salata cheese make up a holy trinity that produces a fresh and satisfying pasta dish. The small number of humble ingredients deliver a lip smacking amount of flavour so this may become your new week day pasta saviour.

If you can’t get ricotta salata, then pecorino or parmesan will work as substitutes but if you can get some ricotta from a deli then your effort will be well worth it! You could even place the block in the freezer and grate it straight from frozen so you always have some available!

Ingredients – serves 2

  • 1 medium aubergine
  • sea salt
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • a small pinch of chilli flakes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 400g quality pulped tomatoes, passata or plum tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • handful of basil
  • ricotta salata cheese (use pecorino or parmesan if you can’t get ricotta salata)
  • 300-350g of fresh pasta (we used maccheroni siciliana, a form of longer, fatter maccheroni but any shape or even dried pasta will do)

Method

  1. Cut the aubergines into large bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl with a generous dose of salt, coating the aubergine thoroughly. Leave aside for half an hour to draw out the liquid.
  2. Pour away the liquid from the aubergine, give it a good wash to remove the salt and then pat dry with kitchen towel.
  3. Add 3 tbsp of olive oil to a large shallow pan on a medium heat. Add the aubergine and fry for 5-7 minutes until soft and lightly translucent. Remove into a bowl.
  4. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until softened but not brown.
  5. Add the garlic and chilli and fry for 1 minute.
  6. Add the tomato puree and fry for 1 minute, coating the onions as much as possible. Add the tomatoes, oregano and a good few grinds of black pepper. Stir to mix well and bring to a light simmer.
  7. Add the fresh pasta to a large pan of salted boiling water and cook 2 minutes less than the packet instructions.
  8. Five minutes before the pasta is ready, add the aubergine to the tomato sauce, along with the basil and season to taste (you may even need to add a little sugar depending on how sweet the tomatoes are).
  9. When the pasta is cooked but still al dente (with a bit of bite), add it to the pan of sauce and ensure the pasta is coated thoroughly.
  10. Dish up and top with a generous helping of ricotta salata. Salute!

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