'In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns' - The Godfather.
For some reason, I love this quote. Perhaps because it resonates with me..a fiery girl passionate about many things.
Out of all the wonderful regional cuisines in Italy, I must say Sicilian food is definitely top 5 for its BIG punchy flavours and chilli based dishes.
Pasta alla Norma is a timeless pasta dish originating from the Sicilian city of Catania.
If Sofia Loren were a pasta, this saucy curly fettuccine dish would be it..get the picture?
You can’t invite her to your date night but this sexy pasta will suffice!
Deep red sauce, luscious and rich in full bodied flavours - this really does not feel like a vegetarian dish! (But it is..and can be veganised too if you leave out the Parmigiano Reggiano).
Silky white wine kissed tomato sauce bursting with garlic & chilli, laced with fresh basil and studded with roasted aubergine/eggplant..
Finish with Italian Parmigiano Reggiano..
Serve with a crisp Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio, Merlot or Pinot Noir.
Utterly delicious yet so simple to make.
Traditional Pasta Alla Norma recipes instruct the cook to deep fry the eggplants/aubergines - but this vegetable is a sucker for oil and since the sauce has a generous glug of olive oil, I choose to avoid this method and roast it in the oven with a smaller amount of olive oil.
Just as tasty, but much more healthy.
Choosing the perfect Eggplant/Aubergine:
-Smooth and shiny/glossy skin with no wrinkles
-Heavy for their size
-Firm but not hard. If you press down with your finger it should give a litte
-Even colouring across the entire surface of the eggplant
Recipe Notes :
-For my pasta I have used curly fettucine but you can really use any shape (short or long variety).
-For my tomatoes I am a lover of Mutti products. Their quality is top end and I find them to be the most consistent. Try get 'Mutti Peeled San Marzano Tomatoes 400g' otherwise regular whole peeled tomatoes will do.
-For my cheese, I only use ones with the words 'Parmigiano-Reggiano' because this is REAL Italian parmesan (Region protected). If it just says 'Parmesan' (most packet parmesans) it is not the real deal!
Serve with a crisp Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio, Merlot or Pinot Noir
Up close and personal.
See how well the sauce sticks to the pasta? Pay attention to step 9 below in the method!
Serves : 4 Ingredients:
1 Large Eggplant Cut into ½ cm x 1 inch Pieces
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tsp Salt + Pinch Of Cracked Pepper
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs Garlic Paste
½ Tbs Dried Chilli Flakes (1 tsp for mild or 1 tbs for spicy)
2 Tbs White Wine (Choose a wine that is good enough to drink)
400g Canned Whole Peeled Baby Tomatoes (I use Mutti Brand)
½ Tbs Caster Sugar (Or More)
¼ Cup Fresh Basil Leaves (Optional - I left it out)
120g Dry Bucatini / Mafaldine (Any long pasta)
1 Cup Pasta Water Reserved
Parmigiano-Reggiano (Vegans - use your vegan parmesan cheese or omit completely)
Note: If not Parmesan, you can use some grated Ricotta Salata.
Pasta, Sauce and Roasted Eggplant - so simple, but each element has to be executed well.
Preheat oven 200 deg C fan forced (220 deg C no fan) and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Place 1 tbs olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl – whisk to mix. Now add the eggplant pieces and toss to ensure all eggplant is coated.
Place eggplant pieces onto the baking tray and pop it into the oven to cook until deep golden and crispy around 20-30 minutes but keep checking after the 15 minute mark, to ensure the eggplant isn’t burning.
In the meantime, heat 2 tbs olive oil in a saucepan until warm not hot, then add garlic paste & dried chilli flakes - let it cook on low sizzling away mixing consistently for 3-5 mins
Now add the white wine and let it bubble away for 2 mins.
Add the tomatoes to the pan, mix and then mash with a fork or potato masher. Try get the sauce as smooth as possible but do not blend it.
Add the caster sugar & cook covered on low-medium heat until oil separates from the sauce. This will take around 10 min. Taste it, there should be no tangyness - add more sugar if required.
Now add a bit of roughly torn basil leaves (I don't, but if you really want to, you can).
Stir the sauce and let it cook on low covered for a further 10min.
Place the pasta into the boiling water and cook to the packet instructions until it is al-dente. (This is important to not cook the pasta 100% as the pasta will continue cooking in the sauce and absorb the flavour from there instead of the boiling water).
Reserve 1 cup of the starchy pasta water for later, in a mug.
The sauce should be ready for the pasta now. Add the al-dente pasta into the sauce along with the roasted eggplant and mix gently until all combined. Heat should be on the lowest setting.
Now little by little, add the reserved pasta water and toss to ensure sauce is silky smooth and even. Adjust the pasta water to ensure the sauce is velvety smooth, not too thick and not too thin.
Once you are happy with the viscosity of the sauce,proceed to the next step.
Check the sauce’s seasoning now and adjust salt if necessary. Now turn the flame off.
Plate pasta neatly onto a serving plate and garnish with tiny baby basil leaves. Serve with authentic Italian Parmesan shaved on top.
I adore bucatini pasta. Bucatini is thicker than spaghetti, making room for that hollow center running throughout the strand. While the two pastas are used in similar recipes, bucatini's pipe-like structure makes it better at sopping up delicious sauces such as this one.
I hope you enjoy this wonderful Italian recipe, do let me know how you go!