Catania, the second largest Sicilian city, offers a rich gastronomic tradition. Famous are “Arancini”, small fried rice balls with various types of savory fillings: meat sauce, vegetables, cheeses (in Western Sicily, they are called “Arancine”), memorable are “Sicilian Cassata”, “Cannoli”, “Marzipan”, “Almond paste” and other varieties of cookies made with almonds or pistachios. But the main dish par excellence is “Pasta alla Norma”. So called in honor of Vincenzo Bellini’s opera “Norma” (his masterpiece), it is made with ricotta salata (salty ricotta cheese) and eggplants (aubergine). A good quality ricotta (available in Italian specialties food stores or supermarkets) makes special this popular Italian summer dish.
Pasta alla Norma: Ingredients
3 eggplants (aubergines)
Pinch of sea salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
500 g (17 oz) tomato pulp
5 basil leaves
320 g (11 oz) short pasta
100 g (3½ oz) ricotta salata cheese
Pasta alla Norma: Method
- Cut the eggplant and lightly salt (if you do not want the texture of the skin in the final result, you can peeled the eggplant). Put a plate on top, pressing it down, and leave to draw out excess water for about 30 minutes. Drain and dry the eggplants on kitchen paper.
- In a frying pan, heat the oil and fry the eggplants until golden brown all over. After browning the garlic in olive oil, remove it and cook the tomato pulp until the sauce is consistent (when you cook the tomatoes add a pinch of brown sugar to remove the acidity).
- When the tomato pulp is almost cook, add basil.
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water till “al dente”.
- Once cooked, add pasta to the sauce and stir.
- Transfer the mixture into a serving dish and arrange the eggplants on top.
- Garnish with a generous sprinkling of salted ricotta.