This recipe is based on a Sicilian classic “Pasta a la Norma”. ”Norma” refers to one of the opera’s written by Siciliy’s own famous composer Vincenzo Bellini. The original version calls for a very special ricotta cheese made locally which is fresh and salty and a slightly different treatment of the aubergine, involving lots more olive oil, just the way the Sicilian’s like it!
There is always much said of Siciliy’s cuisine having many cultural influences such as North African, Spanish and English. I think though, that the biggest influence on Sicilian food, is the land and the produce growing in, on and around it. Having been to Siciliy and eaten my way around, I can honestly say that if I lived on the island, I would be more than happy to be a vegetarian!
Ingredients for 4 portions
1 large aubergine, stalk removed, cut lengthways into thin slices (about 3mm). If the slices are really wide, half them down the middle.
2 x cloves of garlic chopped finely
800gr of very ripe tomatoes, chopped roughly
Salt and black pepper to taste
Juice of one lemon
Extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan to dress, grated or sliced thinly.
Fresh basil leaves, chopped roughly to dress
Optional also some toasted pine nuts sprinkled over to dress
Serve with Tagliatelle, or linguini pasta,
- Brush both sides of each aubergine slice liberally with olive oil.
- Get a grill pan nice an hot, then place the slices in the pan allowing them to get the nice dark stripes from the pan on each side. If your pan is good and hot, this should take about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remember not to overload the pan, make sure that the whole surface area of the aubergine is in contact with the pan.
- Once grilled, set the aubergine aside on a plate.
- Place about 1.5 tbsp olive oil in a non stick pan and heat it.
- At the same time put your pasta in a large pan, and cover it generously with water from a recently boiled kettle and bring it to a rolling boil. Letting it boil for the amount of time instructed on the packet.
- Add the garlic to the hot oil, stir for a few seconds and add the tomatoes, stirring, allow them to cook vigourously for about a minute, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Add some salt and black pepper to your tomatoes, and simmer them for about 5 minutes.
- When the pasta is ready, drain, add some salt and olive oil (just a drizzle), mix through and serve either per plate or on one big serving bowl.
- Check the sauce for seasoning, and serve over the pasta.
- Take the aubergine slices and drape them from the middle of the plate to the edge. 3 or 5 slices per person depending on how many you have. Odd numbers look most attractive on a plate.
- Sprinkle the basil and the basil over the meal and then spritz the lemon juice over, finishing with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.
- Make sure your grill pan is hot, don’t worry if it smokes a little, just open the window!
- Get a pasta of good quality for this recipe – egg pasta.
- When using aubergine, some recipes ask you to salt it first for about half an hour or steep it in salted water for about half an hour before using. I think this is because, traditionally aubergines can have a bitter taste, however, this is not my experience, so I just use them as they are. If you do choose to salt them or steep them, remember to was afterwards and dry with a clean tea towel.
- If you can’t find nice ripe tomatoes, just use tinned, perfectly fine! If I’m honest, this is the kind of recipe that I don’t buy things in for specially, I just make it when I have tomatoes that need to be used up!
- Try with courgette, just treat them the same way as the aubergine. You can make this with only courgette or mix aubergine and courgette.