Thursday, 7 July 2011
Pasta alla Norma
This classic Sicilian pasta sauce combines the creaminess of aubergine with the sweet acidity of tomatoes and the fresh tang of ricotta cheese. This dish is named after the heroine of Vincenzo Bellini's opera of the same name. There are many versions of the recipe, but all contain aubergine (recipe taken from Taste Italia/July 2011 issue)
prep. 15 minutes
cooking 45 minutes
1 large aubergine, trimmed, cut into 2cm thick slices
350 g fresh tomatoes or 400g tinned tomatoes, chopped
160ml olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled, thinly sliced
a handful of basil, leaves torn
400g conchiglie pasta
150f fresh ricotta cheese
Put the aubergine slices in a bowl of salted water for around 10 minutes. Drain and dry on paper towel. (If the aubergine is freshly picked and young, I would skip this stage, it shouldn't be bitter)
If using fresh tomatoes, remove the stems and score a cross in the bottom of each one. Blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds, transfer to cold water, peel the skin away from the cross, then chop the tomatoes. (Again, don't bother with crosses, the peel will break on its own)
Put a generous amount of olive oil in a frying pan and cook the aubergine in batches over a medium-high heat until golden brown and soft inside, adding more of the oil as you need it. Drain in a colander or on paper towels. Cut the aubergine into 2cm thick slices and set aside. (I am a bit confused here, why do you need to cut the aubergine after you cook it? I just cut it into cubes to start with, and didn't need this amount of olive oil, I added a bit of water and covered the pan with the lid, so it was perfectly cooked and not too oily. It wasn't necessary then to leave it on paper towels to absorb the extra oil).
Remove all but 2 tbsp of the oil from the frying pan, add the garlic, and cook until light golden brown. Add the tomatoes and season. Cook until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Add the aubergine and the basil leaves, mix well, then set aside.
Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, until al dente. Drain briefly, leaving some of the water clinging to the pasta, then return the pasta to the saucepan with aubergine mixture and 100 g of the ricotta.
Mix briefly, check the seasoning, and serve immediately with the remaining ricotta crumbled over the top.