icon Pasta alla Norma
Pasta alla Norma is a Sicilian dish. It is a hearty combination of eggplant, tomatoes, ricotta and basil, and one of the most traditional Sicilian recipes.

The dish is named after the opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini, first produced at La Scala in December 1831.

A word about the cheese. Ricotta cheese is soft cheese made (in Italy) from sheep, cow, goat, or water-buffalo milk. American ricotta cheese will almost always be made from cow milk. The cheese is made from whey, the liquid separated out from the curds when cheese is made. "Ricotta" means "recooked". It looks creamy, and a slightly sweet taste, and contains around 13% fat. It is somewhat similar cottage cheese variants but lighter. In Italy, ricotta either as fresh and soft cheese, but also in three other preparations which ensure a longer shelf life: salted, baked and smoked. The pressed, salted and dried variety of the cheese is known as "ricotta salata". It is a milky-white firm cheese used for grating or shaving. It is ricotta salata that should be used in the recipe.


  • 500 g spaghetti, or tubular pasta such as maccheroni (small tubes) or paccheri (large tubes)
  • 2 large eggplants, cubed
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, finely choppped
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil, chopped
  • 200 g ricotta salata
  • 400 g puréed tomatoes
  • 35 g guanciale or a small onion
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt, pepper


  1. Place eggplant cubes in colander and sprinkle with 2 tbsp salt. Let drain 15 for minutes. Pat dry, removing excess salt.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp oil in heavy large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice. Cook until tomatoes begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Remove tomato sauce from heat.
  3. In another skillet or sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over high heat. Working in 3 batches and adding 1 tbsp olive oil for each batch, cook the eggplant until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes.
  4. Cook the pasta al dente in lightly salted water. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to the tomato sauce. Add the cooking water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and basil to sauce and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer pasta to bowl, top with ricotta salata and serve.
  6. YIELD: Servers 4.
  7. Pairs well with a light reds such as Pinot Noir or Barberra, or medium-bodied whites such as Vernaccia.

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Last updated: October 12, 2010
Photograph from Wikimedia Commons used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.