Pasta alla Norma
Pasta alla Norma, a dish that hails from the Italian city of Catania, consists of pasta tossed with a tomato basil sauce and topped with fried eggplant and grated ricotta salata.
2 pounds Italian eggplant
1 quart vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound dried rigatoni or spaghetti
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium-sized garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 pounds ripe, fresh tomatoes or 1 1/2 pounds canned tomatoes (preferably imported from Italy)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 large fresh basil leaves
4 to 6 tablespoons freshly grated ricotta salata
- Peel the eggplants and slice them crosswise into discs less than 1/2 inch thick. Place the eggplant in a bowl, lightly sprinkling coarse salt on each layer. Let stand for 30 minutes with a weight on them (such as a plate with a can of tomatoes on top).
- Start the sauce: Heat 1/3 cup olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic and sauté for 3 minutes. If using fresh tomatoes, cut them into 1-inch pieces. Add fresh or canned tomatoes to saucepan and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring every so often with a wooden spoon. Taste for salt and pepper. Pass the contents of pan thorough a food mill, using the disc with the smallest holes, into a medium-sized glass or ceramic bowl. Return the tomato puree to the saucepan and reduce for 5 minutes.
- Heat the vegetable oil and 1/4 cup olive oil together in a deep-fat fryer over medium heat. Rinse the eggplant very well and pat dry with paper towels. When the oil is hot (about 400°F | 205°C) add some of the eggplant and cook until lightly golden on each side, about 2 minutes. Using a strainer/skimmer, transfer the cooked eggplant to a serving dish lined with paper towels. Fry the rest of the eggplant in the same way.
- Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil. When the water reaches a boil, add salt to taste, then add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 9 to 12 minutes depending on the brand.
- Reheat the tomato sauce and add the basil leaves.
- Drain the pasta, transfer to a large serving dish, and pour the sauce over the top. Toss very well, add the eggplant and serve with grated ricotta salata sprinkled over each portion.
Makes 6 servings.