Sicilian pasta alla Norma is a beautifully simple 20-minute eggplant pasta dish that features crispy eggplant, rich tomato sauce and salty ricotta cheese.
Pasta alla norma is a vegetarian pasta recipe featuring perfectly cooked al dente pasta in a simple Italian tomato sauce, topped with crispy eggplant and shavings of delicious ricotta salata (salted ricotta cheese).
I grew up in Sicily, and pasta alla norma is one of our most traditional recipes.
I'm particularly fond of this simple pasta dish, as it reminds me of all Sundays spent together with my nonna and the rest of my Sicilian family.
In fact, I love this dish so much it's even in the cover of my first cookbook "20-Minute Italian"!
The beauty of this dish is that it calls for a few simple inexpensive ingredients, it's a super easy and satisfying vegetarian pasta dish.
Plus, it's ready in no time and perfect for busy weekdays or to please a large and hungry crowd.
What is Sicilian pasta alla Norma?
Norma pasta was born in Catania, Sicily, and it soon became a popular dish across Italy. But why was this pasta was named "alla norma"?
According to legend, at some point, someone who fell in love with the goodness of the dish, had exclaimed: "Chista è 'na vera Norma!", which would translate to "This is a real Norma!" (intended as a real masterpiece).
The reference is to the "Norma", the famous work of the composer Vincenzo Bellini.
Basically, this pasta was SO good, that it deserved to be named after the famous opera by the Sicilian compositor.
Pasta alla Norma ingredients
This delicious vegetarian Italian pasta recipe comes together in just 20 minutes and all you need is only 7 simple ingredients:
- Pasta: I like to use penne, rigatoni or spaghetti, but bucatini, mafaldine or other shorter pasta would work well.
- Tomatoes: use fresh or canned tomato to prepare a simple Italian traditional tomato sauce.
- Eggplant: use firm eggplants, feel free to peel them completely or not.
- Extra-virgin olive oil: try to use the best quality olive oil you can, it will enhance the overall flavor of the dish.
- Basil: fresh basil leaves will add a wonderful aromatic note to the dish.
- Ricotta salata: aged salty ricotta is one of the stars of this pasta recipe, however, you can substitute it with Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano.
Ricotta salata is a typical Sicilian cheese, and it’s slightly different fresh ricotta.
It follows the same steps but is usually made from sheep’s milk whey, then it’s salted and aged for several months.
Outside of Sicily it’s usually available in most Italian delis or online shops.
When I'm in Sicily, I always use Italian eggplant, which has dark skin, pearl shape, and a sweet and meaty flavour.
However, many other varieties (such as white, graffiti or globe eggplant) will work just as well.
Here's a helpful aubergine guide to help you pick the right one.
Eggplant pasta ready in 20 minutes
This is one of those easy Italian recipes that are always a crowd-pleaser and don't require much effort.
This simple eggplant pasta recipe is ready in four simple steps and 20 minutes of your time:
Scroll down until the end of the post for the full printable recipe.
STEP 1. Prepare the eggplant. Cut it into small cubes, then stir-fry until crispy and golden brown.
STEP 2. Prepare a simple tomato sauce with fresh or canned tomatoes, a garlic clove and a couple of basil leaves.
STEP 3. Add the pasta to a pot with lightly salted boiling water. Cook the pasta al dente.
STEP 4. Add the pasta into the pan with the tomato sauce, mix in the fried eggplant, top with ricotta cheese, and serve.
Of course, you can make eggplant pasta with roasted eggplant.
Place cubed eggplant in a bowl and season well with 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.
Arrange the cubes on a baking tray covered with parchment paper and bake at 360F/180C until golden and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
More Italian pasta recipes to try
- Mafaldine pasta with Napoletana sauce
- Pasta e fagioli - pasta with beans
- Orecchiette with broccoli rabe
- Bucatini Pomodoro
- Romanesco pasta
- Duck ragu pasta
- Pasta with ricotta meatballs
Did You Try This Recipe?
Please let me know how you liked it! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #thepetitecook!
Pasta alla Norma - Eggplant Pasta
- 1 large eggplant
- 255 ml extra-virgin olive oil, approx 1 cup + 1 tablespoon
- 1 garlic clove
- 5 whole canned plum tomatoes
- 120 ml water or the juice of the canned tomatoes, approx ½ cup
- 4 basil leaves
- a pinch of brown sugar or a bay leaf
- Sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
- 350 g pasta, penne, spaghetti, rigatoni, etc
- 3 tablespoon ricotta salata cheese, grated
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Finely cube the eggplant, and pat the cubes dry with paper towels.
- Heat 1 cup (240 ml) of extra-virgin olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Fold in the eggplant in a single layer and fry it until it’s crispy and golden on both sides, about 4 minutes.
- Remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon and arrange the cubes in a single layer on a dish covered with paper towels. Dab the slices with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
- Slice the tomatoes into half and remove their seeds. Heat a large pan with 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil and the garlic over medium heat. Fold in the tomatoes and stir-fry them for 5 minutes. Stir in ½ cup of warm water , 2 basil leaves and a pinch of sugar (or bay leaf), cover with a lid and cook for 10-15 minutes. Discard the garlic (and bay leaf if using) and season the sauce with sea salt and black pepper to taste.
- Lightly salt the boiling water, fold in the pasta and cook until al dente, according to package directions, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and add it into the pan with the tomato sauce, followed by the fried eggplant cubes and the remaining basil leaves.
- Stir all the ingredients together, sprinkle the ricotta salata all over the pasta and serve.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.