Pasta alla Norma

In Sicily it is called “alla Norma” in honor of Bellini, the famous musician born in Catania. I Catanesi (inhabitants of Catania), greatly impressed by that masterpiece of their fellow citizen, used his surname – Bellini – to name every example of excellence, any creation that met high quality standards. No exeption was made for a plate of pasta with eggplant and tomato sauce.

I never make the same pasta alla Norma. I can’t reach a conclusion about its best version. What type of eggplant should I use? What kind of pasta? Which cheese will melt better? Hamletic doubts.

pastasiciliana-0354 In Catania, I heard, Sicilians cut eggplant into long slices, while in Messina they prefer to cut it into cubes. Fresh ricotta is usually the cheese of choice; not in Messina though, where it is more popular to use a salty firm ricotta called ricotta salata, usually grated on top similarly to Parmesan. In the “soffritto” some prefer to fry the onion while others opt for garlic.

In doubt, I decide to stick with a few key points: I am going to stir fry in extra-virgin olive oil the eggplant and then cook everything in abundant tomato sauce with fresh basil. All-right, but which type of tomato should I use?

pastasiciliana-0362 A few people prepare it with fresh tomatoes, many others are happy with using tinned tomatoes. Do you understand now why I hardly ever come up with the same recipe? Maybe the secret for a great pasta alla Norma is just in a few details rather than in its main ingredients:  extravirgin olive oil to build up character, a little of chilli and plenty of basil. Not to mention a sprinkling of cheese – firm and salty for me, please.

p.s. In the end I opted for a short pasta called “caserecce” from one of the best Italian producers of pasta (surprisingly found in a Chinese store at the outskirt of London!), canned tomatoes, Parmesan and a few bites of mozzarella to melt on top.

p.p.s. Right now I’m in Italy surrounded by the beauty of the Tuscan countryside. I really look forward to sharing with you my impressions of such a fecund and fascinating land.

Pasta alla Norma


  • 1 eggplant
  • Olive oil as needed (at least 1/4 cup)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 dried chilli
  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, chopped (canned are fine; about 1 can)
  • 250 gr pasta
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan


  1. Cut the eggplant in cubes about 1/2 inch thick. Cook in abundant olive oil, without crowding, sprinkling with salt and adding more oil as needed. Remove to a plate and set aside.
  2. In the same pan turn the heat to medium, add the garlic, chilies, and cook until the garlic for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and oregano, along with some salt and pepper; cook until saucy, about 10 minutes.
  3. Cook the pasta al dente in abundant boiling salted water (how long depends on the type of pasta you chose, in my case 7 minutes). Reheat the eggplant for 5 minutes in the tomato sauce. Drain the pasta and toss it with the tomato sauce and the eggplant. Top with the basil and grated cheese and serve.

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  • Reply Cailee November 5, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Oh yum!! Eggplant? Great idea!!Perfect for this time of year!

  • Reply Sarah @ Making Thyme for Health November 5, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    I’m in love with the history lessons you give us in your posts.
    I’m sure it is delicious no matter which way you choose.

    I wish you would teach me something about food photography too. Your pictures are always flawless.

    I can’t wait to see pictures from your time in Tuscany as well. Please share soon!! 🙂

    • Reply Daniela @FoodRecipesHQ November 8, 2013 at 9:20 am

      Funny enough, I would ask you the same: food photography lessons from you! X

  • Reply Kiran @ November 6, 2013 at 4:24 am

    Eggplant in pasta is pretty new to me. Thanks for the wealth of historical info and divine recipe 🙂

  • Reply Rosa November 7, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    A mouthwatering dish! I love the shape of those pasta.



  • Reply Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl November 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    This pasta dish looks so savory and delicious! Perfect dinner!

  • Reply Kristi @ Inspiration Kitchen November 8, 2013 at 2:25 am

    Oh my gosh! This looks absolutely delicious!!! I absolutely love these photos, and that dish looks amazing! I wish this was dinner tonight.

  • Reply Kumar's Kitchen November 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    scrumptious dish…can feel every bit of this truly delicious masterpiece,thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Reply Shashi @ November 12, 2013 at 12:37 am

    Eggplant and pasta are two of my daughters favs – she would love this dish! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Reply Milana - the Jottings November 12, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    I want to eat this now – looks very delicious! Love reading your posts and stories! Baci<3

  • Reply sowmya November 12, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    These look absolutely delicious! I love pasta anytime 🙂

  • Reply Juliana November 12, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Wow, this pasta looks delicious, I yet have to try adding eggplant in my pasta sauce…
    Have a great week Daniela 😀

  • Reply Dina November 17, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    it sounds do good. I love ricotta salata.

  • Reply Kristin November 19, 2013 at 2:53 am

    This was pure heaven! So simple,but a depth of flavor. Loved every bite.

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