Our garden has yielded more eggplant that we know what to do with! We’ve fried it, grilled it, made eggplant parm, and even made delicious eggplant chips in the air fryer. When Anel brought in yet another harvest last week I made one of my all-time favorite pasta dishes: pasta alla norma. Which is essentially just pasta with red sauce but somehow tastes 1000% better.
This dish is so easy to make and really hard to mess up. It’s great for a vegetarian weeknight meal! Traditionally it’s topped with ricotta salata which I didn’t have when I made it but pecorino does the trick if you’re in a pinch.
I also used fresh parsley and basil from the garden which made it even more special. Growing our own food over the last few months has helped me branch out and make recipes I hadn’t thought to make before like this one that I haven’t made in years.
Pasta Alla Norma
Makes 4 servings
– 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 large eggplant, sliced into 1-inch strips (I keep the skin on for extra nutrients and think it tastes better)
– Salt & black pepper
– 1 yellow onion, chopped
– 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
– 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
– 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
– 1 tsp dried oregano
– 1 pound dry pasta (I use rigatoni for this!)
– 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
– 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
– 1/2 cup grated pecorino or ricotta salata cheese
1. In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the eggplant in batches and cook on all sides until golden brown. Remove the eggplant from the pan and set aside on a large plate. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Add the onion to the same pan and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add the red pepper flakes and oregano, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
4. While the sauce cooks, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the package and drain except for 1/4 cup of pasta water (If using regular pasta only! If you’re using GF or chickpea pasta, skip this step)
5. Add the pasta, pasta water, and eggplant to the sauce and toss to coat. Add the parsley, basil, and cheese, and toss well to combine.
6. Top with more cheese and serve.
Photos by Julia Dags.
Yum! This takes me back to when I studied abroad in Italy and learned a fun fact about why it’s called “pasta all Norma” – it’s a regional dish from Sicily, where the famous opera composer Bellini was born. His most famous opera was La Norma – his masterpiece – and this dish is the “masterpiece” of Sicilian cooking. I loved learning that and thought I’d share!
Julia, so many of your recipes have been become staples in our rotation. I normally am not the biggest fan of eggplant unless it’s breaded but I am def going to make this.
Question – do you think the air fryer is worth it and what one do you have? I’ve been back and forth on it and I’m just not sure I want another appliance. I’ve heard that oven roasting basically gives the same effect on most things, it just takes longer. Do you notice a big change in texture and flavor from the air fryer vs oven baking / roasting?