Friday, 4 September 2015
Pasta alla Norma
It so happened that this week an Italian composer Bellini-inspired dishes have been on my mind, or should I say menu. First we went out with my husband on Tuesday, and I had a Bellini cocktail. I am quite predictable when it comes to cocktails, and usually stick to the same old favourites. And today, I cooked a classic Sicilian dish called Pasta alla Norma, which is named after Vincenzo Bellini's opera Norma.
There are quite a few different variations of the recipe, but the main ingredients stay the same - it is a pasta cooked with a sauce of aubergines and ricotta cheese.
I used a pack of Barilla penne rigate from August Degustabox. You can also cook this dish with conchiglie (seashells pasta shapes) or even spaghetti. Barilla penne is an authentic Italian pasta of excellent quality. Barilla as a brand is very popular in Italy, and every time we visit my in-laws and travel from the airport to my husband's hometown, I often see huge posters of Barilla pasta. Penne are shaped like old style pens with a cut off angled end, and they hold any sauce very well thanks to their shape.
Pasta alla Norma
6tbsp olive oil +
2 medium aubergines, cubed
2 big tomatoes, chopped (you can also use a tin of plum tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes)
1 tin of Cirio tomato concentrate (optional)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2tsp chilli paste (or more if you like it hot)
a handful of chopped basil leaves
100g fresh ricotta cheese
Slice and cube the aubergines. If using young smaller size aubergines, you don't even need to peel them, just remove the harder bit at the end where it was attached to the stalk. I also don't salt them, then rinse and dry, it works only with big sized older vegetables.
Put a generous glug of olive oil in a deep frying pan, about 6tbsp. You will be adding more oil once the aubergines are in the pan, as they absorb the oil like a sponge. Cook over a medium-high heat until golden brown and soft inside. Season well with sea salt.
If using the fresh tomatoes, core them and chop finely. Add to the aubergines with the chopped garlic and chilli paste. You can use a tin of plum tomatoes instead of the fresh tomatoes and tomato concentrate. I wanted to use the concentrate as it was the remains of the Degustabox from a few months ago. Add the torn or chopped basil leaves just a minute before the end of cooking.
The sauce should be quite thick.
In the meantime cook your pasta shapes al dente in the salted boiling water, as per instructions on the packet. Drain the pasta, not too thoroughly, then return to the pan, add the aubergine sauce and crumble ricotta in.