October 04, 2023
For this recipe we will combine two regions of southern Italy, in fact orecchiette is the iconic pasta format from Puglia, while sugo alla Norma is the most loved and well-known sauce from Sicily!
Tomatoes, garlic, fried eggplant, fresh basil, and salted ricotta cheese together make for a memorable sauce that makes us want to replicate this recipe countless times.
For this version we chose orecchiette, their wrinkled surface, thin interior and thicker edge are perfect to accommodate the Norma sauce!
Every traditional recipe has innumerable variations; this is the traditional version from a trattoria in Catania cooked by Nonna Silvana.
- 14 o.z of Fresh Orecchiette
- 2 Violetta Eggplants
- 3 cups of tomato paste
- 1 clove of garlic
- Extra virgin olive oil (enough for the sauce and for frying the eggplant)
- Fresh basil
- 1 cup of Goat's Milk Ricotta Salata Cheese*
- The first thing to prepare is the sauce, so that it is full-bodied and thick to accommodate the fried eggplant. In a nonstick pan we put a drizzle of oil and a clove of garlic and let it sauté for a few minutes.
- At this point we put our tomato sauce in the pan, adjust the salt and put in a few basil leaves. We let it cook for about 20 minutes over medium heat, taking care to turn the sauce sometimes. A tip for a perfect sauce, once cooked if it tastes a little sour we can add a teaspoon of sugar or baking soda.
- Now we wash and dry the eggplant and trim the two ends with a knife. We cut the eggplant vertically in half and then proceed with dicing.
- The eggplant should be firm and seedless, so the sauce will have a pleasant and not bitter aftertaste.
- Now we need to fry the eggplant and then gently incorporate it into the tomato sauce we have already prepared.
- In a nonstick frying pan we put plenty of oil, we heat it, once hot enough we pour in the previously diced eggplant. We fry the eggplants for 4-5 minutes, they should be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, they should not absorb too much oil otherwise our sauce will be too heavy.
- Once ready, let's drain them from excess oil and place them on a plate with paper towels.
- Now we can cook our orecchiette in plenty of salted water, we drain them a minute before they are done so we can finish cooking them in the pan with the sauce (we keep a ladle of cooking water aside).
- Now it is time to combine the two seasonings, we dip the fried eggplant into the tomato sauce, pour the freshly drained orecchiette pasta into the pan and stir with the flame for 1 minute, adding a little cooking water if the sauce is too thick.
- Once pasta and sauce have become one, we can transfer our pasta alla norma to the plate. We complete the dish with a generous grating of ricotta salata and fresh basil leaves.
*Most people know ricotta cheese, a soft, curdled Italian cheese that resembles cottage cheese. Ricotta Salata it’s more of an aged version of regular ricotta, and like the name implies, it’s salty – “salata”. While ricotta is almost sweet, ricotta salata is salty, and where ricotta is soft and liquidy, salata is dry and firm, buttery but crumbly. It can easily be shaved or grated, which makes ricotta salata a great option for pasta.
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Words and Photographs by Gianina Rose