Pasta alla Norma
“I spent the best part of my 20s working on cookery holidays, sometimes spending up to two months in Sicily, hosted at the Ravida family villa. Every week a new group of guests would arrive and their first cooking session was my favourite. They would tentatively start chopping and peeling, creating their first Sicilian meal to be shared at a table in the villa’s courtyard. While they cooked and then ate together, an atmosphere of communal conviviality was set and those who were strangers in the morning had often become friends for life by the end of lunch. Pasta alla Norma, a local classic made with fried golden aubergines, a rich tomato sauce and a generous grating of ricotta salata was one of the first dishes they learnt how to make – the mutual appreciation of such a simple dish adding to the bonding experience.” – Marina Filippelli
Serves 4 Total Time 20 mins.
- Olive oil, for frying
- 3 large aubergines, cut into large chunks
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
- 400g rigatoni
- 8 basil leaves
- 5 tbsp ricotta salata, grated, extra to serve
- Heat about 2.5cm oil in a frying pan and fry the aubergine, in batches, until golden on both sides and really soft inside. Drain on kitchen paper and remove most of the oil from the pan.
- Bash the garlic cloves with the side of a knife, so they split without breaking apart. Add to a pan and cook gently for 5 mins, to infuse the oil. Pour in the tinned tomato and season with salt. Simmer for 10 mins while you cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, following packet cooking times.
- Toss the pasta into the sauce, with the aubergines, basil and a generous handful of the ricotta salata. Serve immediately with extra cheese on the side.
Cook’s tip: Ricotta salata is a firm cheese with a strong, salty quality that’s more like feta than fresh ricotta. Use it grated over a salad, stirred into a simple pasta with tomato sauce, or even melted over toast.