Saturday, 3 March 2012

Pasta alla Norma

The divine Giorgio Locatelli has just published a magisterial book on Sicilian cooking, and I have already book-marked about 20 things to cook.  The Sicilians are very influenced by the Moors who once ruled their island, and it is thought that they made pasta well before it was introduced on the mainland.  Pasta alla Norma is one of their most famous dishes, and Giorgio's version is rich with roasted and deep-fried aubergines, masses of olive oil, and a cheese called ricotta salata or salted and semi-hard ricotta.  I have simplified this to cut down the need to deep-fry the aubergine, but it is still delicious and a great veggie pasta dish.  Even given that aubergines aren't that cheap, this will still qualify as an 'under a fiver' dish for 4 - easily halved as well.  Start off by cutting two aubergines into chunks about 2cm across.  Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick pan until hot and then fry the aubergines over a highish heat until golden brown and soft on all sides.  It will drink up the oil - don't be tempted to add more, just keep turning the pieces regularly and it will be fine.  Now make a tomato sauce with a large onion, 4 cloves of garlic (both finely chopped), another couple of tablespoons of olive oil and 2 x 400g tins of good tomatoes - Cirio brand for me.  When the sauce is thick and reduced, add the aubergines and about 20g of chopped fresh basil.  Heat through, whilst cooking 400g of pasta - rigatoni, penne or even bucatini, the thick southern-Italian spaghetti.  Drain the pasta, keeping a little of the cooking water back, and toss with the aubergine and tomato sauce, adding a little cooking water to slacken everything and help it coat.  If you are lucky enough to get hold of ricotta salata, grate it over everything and serve pronto.  If not, Pecorino Romano or Parmesan is good, and I also stirred some chopped mozarella through right at the end.  Why not pop on a CD of Bellini's opera 'Norma', after which the dish is named, whilst you prepare and eat - I favour the recording with Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne or Callas/Ludwig.

1 comment:

  1. That looks delicious!