Friday, June 24, 2011

Heritage Food Friday

I have decided to start a new series -- recipes from Norway and Sicily! 

Pasta Alla Norma

Maria Callas plays Norma. 
Picture from
I figure I might as well start with something from Catania, the city at the foot of Mt. Etna.  Most Sicilian cookbooks in the U.S. tend to focus on Western Sicilian cooking and don't pay too much attention to the East.  The truth is that while a lot is the same, there are also differences.

My Aunt Eva in Catania is by far the best cook EVER, and I don't think I could begin to create anything to compare; but when I think of Sicilian cooking, I always think of her.  Here's an attempt at Pasta alla Norma, Zia, that could never be yours!

By the way, Pasta alla Norma is named after the Opera "Norma," which was written by Catania's most famous composer, Vincenzo Bellini. 

4 - 6 servings

1 box Penne (rigate is preferred); spaghetti is okay, too.
1 can diced tomatoes.  You may also take 6-8 medium tomatoes and boil them for about 1 minute.  Cool in cold water and peel the skin, then dice.
1 Eggplant
Ricotta Salata
1 Onion
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves Garlic
Salt and Pepper

Dice the garlic and onion and saute in a thin coat of olive oil at the bottom of the pan.  When the onion and garlic attains some color, add the diced tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and let simmer.  The eggplant can be cut in squares (half-inch cubes) or sliced and then fried.  Drain the eggplant on absorbent paper.  The eggplant should be crispy but not burned.  Cook the penne in boiling salted water until al dente -- firm and not overcooked.  Drain the pasta and pour half of the sauce over it.  Mix.  Place the pasta on a plate to serve and add some remaining sauce on top.  Arrange the eggplant on top of the sauce and penne.  Garnish with a few sprigs of basil.  Now -- the most important part -- grate the ricotta salata over the entire creation.  Repeat for each serving.

Now, let me be clear that parmesan cheese does not make this Pasta alla Norma, so try to find Ricotta Salata.  It has a distinctive flavor on the pasta.  Most stores in the U.S. carry the cheese.  If not, a Fresh Market or Whole Foods should have it.  In Catania, aged ricotta salata is the best and is what my aunt uses, but in the U.S. you will probably have to go with a less aged version.

Serve and enjoy!

Picture from


  1. I'd like to give this a go, but the ricotta salata is very unlikely to be available here .... sadly

  2. Yumm. Looks great. And doesn't look too difficult.

    I love your idea for this series. Food always good, especially traditional!

  3. So yummy ans delicious. Thanks for sharing this recipe details.
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