Pasta alla norm is one of the most popular in Sicily. She just cooks, but, despite all the simplicity of cooking, she has grace. And every housewife has her own little secrets that make this dish incredibly tasty. It reflects the very essence of the island: ripe meaty Sicilian tomatoes, bright purple eggplant and Sicilian ricotta find unity in this dish.
This classic pasta is a symbol of the city of Catania.
A delicious and vibrant recipe for Sicilian gastronomy, pasta alla norm is a triumph of combining Mediterranean tastes. The pasta was named in honor of Vincenzo Bellini's famous opera Norma. The story goes that in the 19th century Nino Martoglio, a Sicilian writer, tasted this dish and was so amazed that he exclaimed Norma, emphasizing that this paste is as perfect as Bellini's Norma and that it is a real masterpiece. Since then, the name has been preserved.
I had an amazing experience cooking pasta alla norm with a real Sicilian mistress, Signora Sylvia Palazzolo. Sylvia, as befits a real Sicilian housewife, simply cooks smartly and always with a smile on her face. I think this is one of her secrets to make the dish even tastier.
She shared her little secrets with me, and under her strict guidance I prepared this traditional pasta.
Secrets from Signora Sylvia:
- The broth that remains from cooking the pasta should not be poured out, because if suddenly there is not enough tomato sauce, then you can add this broth so that the paste is not dry;
- Use two types of tomato sauce. The first is pre-cooked or canned homemade tomato paste, which makes the dish incredibly tasty because it contains very little water. It is important to simmer the tomatoes to a puree consistency so that almost all the liquid evaporates. The second is a sauce of fresh tomatoes and meat stewed over low heat for 3 hours;
- For pasta you need to use eggplant, diced, and decorate with long eggplant sticks. So the dish looks spectacular;
- It’s penne or buccatti that is ideal for alla pasta pasta, as the sauce penetrates inside the pasta tube, thereby making the dish even juicier,
- Cooking with love!
Tomato Paste Recipe
For Alla paste, we need:
- 500 gr. penne pasta;
- 250 gr homemade tomato paste;
- 300 gr ripe tomatoes;
- 100 gr. meat cut into small cubes;
- 4 eggplants;
- Sprig of basil;
- 2 cloves of garlic;
- Olive oil for frying;
- Salt and pepper to taste;
- Ricotta Salata (Ricotta Salata) - ripe cheese, salty to the taste.
- First, we’ll do the sauce. We heat the olive oil in a frying pan and lightly fry the garlic and meat and listen carefully, when they begin to "speak", then add the tomatoes in cubes. And simmer for 2-3 hours on a slow fire, yes, just enough so that the meat gives all its juice and incorporates tomato juice. Of course, if you do not have so much time, then you can limit yourself to an hour, but a truly uniform and harmonious taste in the sauce appears after 2-3 hours.
- At this time, we can do eggplant. First, we cut the eggplants lengthwise, and cut the side parts into longitudinal strips, and all other parts into cubes.
- Now the crucial part - as it is important to ensure that the eggplant does not burn. Heat the olive oil in a pan, 5-6 centimeters from the bottom, and fry the eggplant in hot oil. As soon as our cubes and strips become golden, we quickly throw them on a plate with a paper towel, allowing the excess oil to drain. Put the strips aside.
- 15 minutes before the sauce is quenched, it adds homemade tomato paste. Usually in season all Sicilian mistresses stock up on similar sauces. They put tomatoes on low heat until a homogeneous consistency, and then rub through a sieve. The smell of this pasta is incredible, as if it had just picked tomatoes from the garden.
- For Italians, this is the most trifling matter, but in our latitudes there isn’t yet - it’s to boil pasta to the state of “al dente”. Throw penne pasta into boiling slightly salted water in a large pan; it’s important that the penne float freely. It is not necessary to cover with a lid. We cook the pasta for about 4-5 minutes, after which we begin to taste it every 30 seconds until it is ready, so to speak, so that it is on the tooth. Al dente paste remains firm inside, but not fragile. When the pasta is ready, discard it in a colander, and set the remaining broth aside. If the pasta is slightly undercooked, it’s not scary, as we will combine it with hot tomato sauce, which will give it our warmth.
- And now the most interesting thing: we add our pasta to a bright burgundy fragrant tomato sauce, gently stirring the penne into the red mass, so that the sauce envelops the pasta from all sides, saturating and making it juicy. Add our golden eggplant cubes, knead everything thoroughly and remove from heat.
- And of course, not a single Sicilian mistress will serve a meal without decorating it. Sprinkle ricotta to taste. Someone likes more, but it is important not to overdo it, as this cheese is salty. Lay out eggplant strips and basil in the center. And here it is - the perfect Norma dish!