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Pasta alla norma

The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily has been at the crossroads of Western civilization for over 2,500 years, due to its strategic location in the middle of Mediterranean trade routes.

Ruled at different times in history by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Germans, Spanish, and finally Italians, Sicily boats a spectacular cultural heritage, evident in its architecture, music, and of course, its cuisine.

Stunningly beautiful and strategically located in the heart of the Mediterranean, Sicily has enticed visitors since it was first inhabited 10,000 years ago. Today, travelers continue to be drawn to the island for its stunning landscapes, cultural treasures and of course, it’s culinary splendors.

We’ve visited Italy only once, but it was one of our most memorable trips. From Catania to Palermo, and the cities and villages in between – Syracusa, Ragusa, Agrigento, Sciacca, Marsala, Trapani, San Vito lo Capo – we soaked in the sun on some of the world’s most amazing beaches, visited stunning ancient ruins such as the Valley of the Temples and (of course) sampled Sicilia’s unique cuisine.

Among the delicacies we sampled were arancini, panelle, cous cous, insalata d’arance, caponata, paste di mandorle, cannoli and cassata.  And obviously, seafood. Tons and tons of it.

As an ode to that fantastic trip, here’s a Sicilian classic, pasta alla norma, a humble dish with simple, authentic ingredients – olive oil, eggplant, tomato and ricotta salata –  named after the Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini’s 19th century opera, Norma.

Pasta alla Norma

Yield: 4-6

a Sicilian classic from Catania, pasta alla norma is a humble dish with simple, authentic ingredients – olive oil, eggplant, tomato and ricotta salata –  named after the Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini’s 19th century opera, Norma.


  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 1 cup Extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed
  • 1 can (28 oz) whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch of fresh basil
  • Dry white wine
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 200 grams grated ricotta salata


  1. Peel the eggplant and cut it into cubes. Put the eggplant in a strainer one layer at a time, sprinkling a dusting of salt over each layer.  Place a dinner plate on top or something similar that adds weight to help press the bitter liquids. Let the eggplant degorge for about an hour.
  2. Heat the olive oil to 175° C or 350° F.
  3. Fry the eggplant in the hot oil until brown and soft. Fry in batches if needed to avoid crowding.
  4. When cooked, remove the eggplant and let it rest on abundant paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
  5. While the eggplant is resting, prepare the sauce. Recover 3-4 tablespoons of the frying oil and add it to a saucepan.
  6. Slice the garlic in quarters and sauté the garlic in olive oil along with the bunch of basil.
  7. Add the tomatoes, passing them through a food mill to render them smooth. Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes, salting to taste. 
  8. After about 20 minutes, add a dash of dry white
    wine the eggplant and about 1/4 cup of the grated ricotta salata
  9. Cook over low heat for the remaining 10 minutues, stirring occasionally.
  10. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Toss your short pasta of choice – perhaps penne, rigatoni or paccheri – into the water, along with a generous handful of salt.  Cook until al dente.
  11. Strain the pasta, transfer it to the saucepan, and cook over medium heat for one more minute while stirring it all together.
  12. Serve in pasta bowls with another grating of
    ricotta salata.

3 thoughts on “Pasta alla norma”

  1. What a lovely presentation! And what a classic dish. May I add that I am experiencing some sincere travel envy here! I hope you guys have a fabulous trip, and I hope you post lots of travel pix! Buon viaggio a tutti!

  2. A true classic!

    You know, one of my biggest regrets from the years in Italy is that I never got down to Sicily. Not sure why—everyone says it’s amazing, and your photos certainly bear that out.

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Due Spaghetti

Travel around with me and discover different cultures, gain new experiences, try unique food and enjoy what the world has to offer.

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