When life gets stressful, what better way to relax than with a big bowl of Italian comfort food?
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a self-proclaimed pasta addict. There’s just something about all the culinary possibilities! I love experimenting with different flavors and ingredients to create inspiring dishes – and I rarely make the same dish twice!
But, despite all the interesting combinations I come up with, sometimes I just want to relax with a comfortable classic. There is one recipe that holds this place in my heart as my go-to pasta dish: Pasta alla Norma. It’s rich, comforting, and never fails to disappoint. Plus, it’s super easy to prepare thanks to our Anna Maria’s Torino Tomato sauce!
Here, I’m sharing this family favorite with you. Read on to learn why Pasta Alla Norma is so special, and how you can make it for yourself. Enjoy!
A Sicilian Vegetarian Delight: The Delicious History of Pasta alla Norma
Some dishes get their names from the region they were developed in. Some get their names from the famous chef who invented them. Others, like this one, get their name from the opera!
Pasta alla Norma was named after Vincenzo Bellini’s opera, Norma. The opera’s heroine, Norma, was so well-liked that people in the region began saying that something was “Norma” if it was perfect, a la mode, or impeccable.
Sicily’s simple regional pasta made from sautéed eggplant tossed with tomato sauce and cheese became known as Pasta alla Norma: the perfect pasta.
What’s in Pasta alla Norma?
Pasta all Norma is a timeless Catanian favorite that packs a delicious punch despite its simplicity. It is traditionally made with 4 key ingredients:
Pasta: Choose a short and thick pasta, like rigatoni, penne, or our favorite, cavatelli. Spaghetti also works well with this recipe.
Eggplant: In Catania, the favorite eggplant to use for this recipe is black aubergine, Sita, or Turkish eggplant. But, any eggplant variety that you can find will do. Try to avoid gigantic ones and opt for smaller medium-sized ones to get the best flavor.
Tomatoes: Fresh, firm, full-sized mature tomatoes are best for this recipe. Or, take the efficient route like us and use a high-quality Italian tomato sauce like our Torino Tomato!
Ricotta Salata: A hard, salty cheese. Depending on where you look, you may find different variations of this traditional recipe with other cheeses. I’ve tried a few options and found that my cheese of choice is fresh mozzarella. It has a less salty flavor than the ricotta salata but adds a great textural element due to its ability to melt. You can also try this recipe with regular ricotta cheese, but I find it tends to mix a bit too well with the sauce, dulling down the flavor.
Regardless of your cheese choice, this recipe is sure to be a winner, and it can be thrown together in under an hour!
Ready to get cooking?
Anna Maria’s Family Recipe for Cavatelli alla Norma
- Cutting board
- Chef's knife
- Large saute pan
- Pasta pot
- 1 lb. fresh cavatelli pasta frozen cavatelli also works well
- 1 jar AnnaMaria’s Torino Tomato
- 2 medium eggplants cubed
- ¾ lb. fresh mozzarella cubed
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 leaves of fresh basil chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- parmesan cheese
- First, put on a pot of salted water to boil. Then prep your ingredients. Chop the basil and cut your fresh mozzarella into ½ cubes. Dice the garlic. Chop the onions and peel your eggplant. Once the eggplant is peeled, slice it lengthwise and remove the seedy flesh at the center. Then cut into strips and chop into about ¾ inch cubes.
- Get a large nonstick pan nice and hot. Heat up your olive oil, then toss in the onions, garlic, and eggplant. Season with salt and pepper. Mix everything together thoroughly to make sure the oil evenly coats your veggies. Tip: The flesh of the eggplant is like a sponge, so you may need to add a bit more oil. The goal here is to get some color on your eggplant, so don’t over stir. Let everything sit for a few minutes until the eggplant has a nice golden color on one side. Give it a stir and allow it to brown evenly.
- By this point, your water should be boiled and ready for your pasta! If you’re using fresh cavatelli, keep a close eye on it as fresh pasta always cooks faster than frozen or dry pasta. For that perfect al dente bite, cook for about 4-5 minutes.
- As the cavatelli is cooking, lower the heat on your sauté pan and add 1 jar of AnnaMaria’s Torino Tomato Sauce. Mix thoroughly and cook until heated.
- Drain your pasta and mix it together with your sauce. Once incorporated, gently fold in the mozzarella and half the basil. Top with grated cheese and the remaining basil as a garnish.