Pasta alla norma is a Sicilian dish of pasta with fried eggplant, tomatoes, basil, and grated ricotta salata. I couldn’t find ricotta salata, but pecorino romano could be used instead, or even feta if you want a similar texture. My version is kind of a cross between alla norma and puttanesca, with the addition of capers, chilli, and anchovy, but you can leave these out if you want to be traditional. You of course don’t have to make your own tagliatelle for this, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to show how I make fresh pasta.
Ingredients (to serve 4):
For the tagliatelle
- 360 g 00 Flour
- 4 Large eggs
- Extra flour for kneading
For the sauce
- 2 Large eggplants/aubergines
- 2 Tins of chopped tomatoes
- 1 White onion, diced
- 4 Garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp Tomato paste
- 2 Anchovies, finely chopped
- 2 tsps Anchovy oil
- A handful of capers
- Chilli flakes (as many as you like)
- 10 Cherry tomatoes
- A small bunch of basil, roughly chopped
- Ricotta salata or pecorino romano
- Salt and pepper
- Knob of butter
- 1 tbsp Olive oil
- Start by making your pasta dough. Tip your flour onto a surface, and make a large well in the middle. Crack your eggs directly into the well, and start whisking the eggs. Slowly bring in the flour from the edges of the well, and keep adding flour until it’s thick enough for you to knead. Don’t use all of the flour if you don’t think you need it all.
- Knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic, and it’s a golden yellow colour, this takes around 8-10 minutes. Wrap with cling film, and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour but preferably an hour – this allows the gluten you’ve developed to relax.
- While your dough is in the fridge, this is a good time to start your eggplant. Slice your eggplants into 1-2cm cubes, and spread over a large baking tray. Salt heavily, and allow to sit for half an hour. This draws the moisture out of the eggplant and leaves you with a creamy texture. After half an hour, remove the excess moisture with a paper towel.
- Heat a large, heavy bottomed pan with enough vegetable oil to shallow fry the eggplant cubes. If you want to be healthier you can oven bake the eggplant. You’ll know when the oil is hot enough to fry when bubbles form around the end of a wooden spoon.
- In batches, carefully fry your eggplant cubes until golden brown, making sure to flip them often. Remove the cubes and place on a plate lined with two sheets of kitchen roll. Salt immediately, then place another layer of kitchen roll on top ready for the next batch of fried eggplant. Set aside.
- This is also a good time to get the base of your sauce going. In a non-stick pan on a medium heat, add your diced onion, a splash of oil, and your anchovy oil. Cook for a couple of minutes before adding your garlic. Continue to cook until fragrant, then add your tomato paste.
- Cook your tomato paste until it’s darkened slightly, then add your tins of chopped tomatoes and chopped anchovies, along with half a tin of water. This will seem like a lot, but it allows the sauce to cook without burning while you make your pasta. Leave to cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally.
- Back to the pasta. Divide your dough into four equal portions. Starting with one portion and keeping the rest covered, press the dough into a long rectangle shape, just thin enough to go through the first setting of your pasta machine. Roll through the first setting several times, then increase the settings until you can just see the colour of your skin through the dough. Make sure everything is well floured. You may have to cut the pieces in half if they get too long. If you don’t have a pasta machine, simply roll it out and cut by hand.
- Once your dough is thin enough, go through the cutting attachment on your machine. Make sure this part is well floured too, otherwise the pasta strands will get stuck together. Place your pasta on a drying rack for at least 20 minutes. If you don’t have a drying rack, try using coat hangers.
- While your pasta is drying, add your capers, chilli flakes, cherry tomatoes, and half of your chopped basil. You can add the whole cherry tomatoes earlier if you want them to cook down more, but I like to have some whole ones in there to contrast the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
- When your pasta is almost dry, add half of your eggplant to the sauce, along with a knob of butter. Keep the rest of the eggplant warm in a low oven.
- Cook your pasta in heavily salted boiling water for around 3 minutes, but this will depend on how thick or thin your pasta is, so the best way to tell is to taste test it. While your pasta is cooking, steal a ladle or two of pasta water and add to the sauce to make it silky.
- Drain your pasta, then add directly to your sauce. Toss to coat. Serve in a shallow bowl with the rest of the eggplant cubes on top, along with your grated cheese and leftover basil. Enjoy!