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Modern Pasta alla Norma Recipe

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5 from 3 votes

A modern twist on the classic Pasta alla Norma, we’re mixing creamy puréed eggplant with fresh  tomatoes, bits of salami and roasted shallots. It’ll impress anyone (including Grandma!).

Italians really know how to make the best comfort food. Pasta alla Norma is just that; it’s pasta with meaty eggplant, sweet-tart tomatoes, and topped with salty ricotta salata cheese.

Although the traditional take on this dish is undeniably delicious, this recipe is a refreshed version with roasted and then puréed eggplant to create a creamier sauce, fresh tomatoes, and bits of salami– because, how good does that sound?

My husband is Italian so you could say he’s a tough critic when it comes to Italian classics. But this version passed the hubby test with flying colors. The entire pound of pasta may have been gone by the end of the night. It’s now a Saturday night staple in our house!

Looking for more comforting recipes to cozy up with? Try my New England style Fish Chowder, Turkey Chili, or Sweet Potato Gnocchi.

Pasta alla Norma: Eggplant Pasta

Originating from Catania, a city nestled on the eastern coast of Sicily, Pasta alla Norma is a traditional Sicilian dish made with tender eggplant and tossed in a flavorful tomato sauce topped with a sprinkle of ricotta salata cheese. Story has it that Pasta alla Norma was named after the famous opera “Norma”. The opera was written by the composer Vincenzo Bellini from Catania. When an Italian playwright, Nino Martoglio, tried the dish and proclaimed “This is a real ‘Norma’!”, it was then that this masterpiece had its name! 

This take on the classic Pasta alla Norma is untraditional without straying too far away from the classic. It’s got puréed eggplant (instead of fried chunks), fresh tomatoes (instead of tomato sauce), roasted sweet shallots, and julienned salami – all gloriously tossed with egg noodles. Topped with both the classic, dry and salty ricotta salata and Parmigiano-Reggiano, you’ll want to make this comfort food year round. Italian red wine included!

Pasta alla Norma Ingredients

  • Egg noodles – egg noodles are more tender and richer in flavor due to the incorporation of eggs in their composition, setting them apart from other standard pasta options. Tagliatelle egg noodles are my personal favorite! 
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes – cherry or grape tomatoes add a burst of sweetness and a fresh dimension to the dish. 
  • Garlic – garlic…because garlic!
  • Eggplants – eggplants have a subtly earthy and sweet taste, which stands out as a defining flavor in classic Pasta alla Norma. The key is using small eggplants; the smaller the eggplant, the smaller the seeds!
  • Shallots – shallots, when roasted, add sweetness and creaminess.
  • Spicy salami – spicy salami, such as calabrese, adds a meaty kick to the dish. Don’t like spicy? Use regular genoa salami.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – extra virgin olive oil helps sauté the tomatoes, roast the shallots, and create a sauce for the pasta.
  • Ricotta salata – as a garnish, grated ricotta salata provides a unique salty touch and a dry, crumbly texture. 
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano – parmigiano is salty and nutty, a traditional garnish for Italian pasta dishes. You can also use regular parmesan if preferred. 
  • Basil – fresh basil adds a pop of green and freshness.

Roasting The Eggplant

When I was experimenting with my take on the traditional Pasta alla Norma, my biggest debate was focused on how to prepare the eggplant! Traditionally, the recipe calls for fried eggplant in a generous pool of olive oil, however, I found that roasting the eggplant resulted in a creamy finish with beautiful caramelization and sweetness that I never got from fried eggplant. The creaminess from the roasted eggplant was the missing part to this masterpiece!

Do You Need To Salt Eggplant Before Cooking?

You may have seen that there’s been a long-standing debate about whether eggplants need to be salted before cooking. Some say salting prior to cooking helps pull out any bitterness that the eggplants may have. Salting the eggplant is absolutely not mandatory, and for roasting specifically, it’s really not necessary. If you were frying the eggplant, I would recommend it but you can skip the salt for this recipe!

How To Make Pasta alla Norma

Learn how to make Pasta alla Norma. Full instructions in the recipe card; this is an outline!

  1. Form.

    Form a bowl out of aluminum foil by pushing up the sides of three stacked pieces around the sides of a water glass. Once formed, let the foil bowl stand on its own.

  2. Add.

    Add olive oil and shallot halves.

  3. Close.

    Close the opening of the aluminum foil bowl by pushing together the sides and sealing the top. Set aside.

  4. Place.

    Place eggplants on a baking sheet. Poke each eggplant with a fork 3-4 times to prevent them from exploding in the oven.

  5. Bake.

    Bake eggplants in a 450℉ oven for 35 minutes, flipping halfway through. Place the foil bowl with shallots and olive in the same oven for 45 minutes.

  6. Slice.

    Slice eggplants open and scoop out filling into a bowl.

  7. Mash.

    Using a potato masher, mash the eggplant.

  8. Add more.

    Add minced garlic and a dash of olive oil to flavor. Stir. Set aside.

  9. Boil.

    Boil egg noodles according to package instructions.

  10. Add to pot.

    While noodles are boiling, add a dash of olive oil and tomatoes to a large pot.

  11. Sauté.

    Sauté tomatoes over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until they begin to wrinkle.

  12. Add more.

    Turn heat to low and add eggplant purée, shallots and oil from the foil package, and salami.

  13. Drain.

    Drain pasta and add pasta to mixture.

  14. Toss.

    Toss gently until combined, adding more olive oil if the pasta seems dry.

  15. Plate.

    Plate and garnish with ricotta salata, parmesan, and fresh basil.

What To Serve With Pasta alla Norma

  • Garlic Bread: crispy and delicious, garlic bread can be a great side to soak up any leftover sauce. 
  • Green salad: a simple green salad with a light vinaigrette like this Classic Italian Salad can serve as a refreshing contrast to the pasta. 
  • Caprese salad: mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar make the perfect simple side dish or appetizer. 
  • Roasted vegetables: adding a side of roasted vegetables is an easy yet delicious way to elevate the meal. I recommend roasted mushrooms, Roasted Zucchini, or Broiled Asparagus
  • Italian red wine: a medium-bodied Italian red wine is a must with this recipe!
  • Italian dessert: a crisp cannoli filled with a sweet ricotta cheese to end the night, or lemon-scented Olive Oil Cake? Yes, please!

More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love!

Modern Pasta alla Norma Recipe

A modern twist on the classic Pasta alla Norma, we’re mixing creamy puréed eggplant with fresh tomatoes, bits of salami and roasted shallots. It’ll impress anyone (including Grandma!).
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: fall, spring, winter
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 1041kcal
Author: Tastefully Grace

Ingredients

  • 1 pound egg noodles I like tagliatelle
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 large garlic clove minced
  • 3 small eggplants the smaller the eggplant, the smaller the seeds
  • 4 large shallots skins removed and cut in half
  • 10 slices spicy or regular salami julienned
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons
  • ¼ pound grated ricotta salata to garnish
  • ¼ pound grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to garnish
  • Fresh basil to garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450℉. Form a bowl out of aluminum foil by pushing up the sides of three stacked pieces of aluminum foil up and around the sides of a water glass. Once formed, let the foil bowl stand on its own.
  • Add shallots and ½ cup olive oil. Close the opening of your foil bowl by pushing together the sides and sealing the top. Set aside.
  • Place eggplants on a baking sheet. Poke each eggplant with a fork 3-4 times to ensure eggplants don’t explode in the oven.
  • Bake eggplants for 35 minutes, flipping halfway through. Eggplants should be shriveled and somewhat charred in appearance. Place the shallot foil bowl in the same oven for 45 minutes.
  • Once done, slice eggplants open and scoop out the filling into a bowl.
  • Use a potato masher to mash eggplant, adding minced garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil to flavor. Stir. Set eggplant purée aside.
  • Boil egg noodles according to instructions.
  • While pasta is boiling, add a tablespoon of olive oil and tomatoes to a large pot. Let tomatoes sauté over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until they just start to wrinkle.
  • Turn heat to low and add eggplant purée, roasted shallots and the oil from the foil package, and salami.
  • Drain pasta and add pasta to mixture. Toss gently until combined, adding a little olive oil if the pasta seems dry.
  • Plate and garnish with ricotta salata, parmesan, and basil.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 1041kcal | Carbohydrates: 110g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 51g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 28g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 147mg | Sodium: 1027mg | Potassium: 1413mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 771IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 485mg | Iron: 4mg
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