While touring Sicily, I stumbled across this pasta dish, Penne alla Norma, at one of the restaurants that my friends and I ate at. After speaking to our program coordinator, we found out that it is actually one of the classic pasta dishes from Sicily. That's not to say you can't get it from other places around Italy. I remember having a wonderful plate of it in San Benedetto del Tronto, which you may remember from my post on Brodetto. My friends and I enjoyed this dish so much that when we returned to Ascoli Piceno, we spent some time in the kitchen replicating it. Since then, it has become one of my favorite pasta dishes to make.
Penne alla Norma mixes pasta with a light tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, red pepper flakes, and some ricotta cheese. When my friends and I replicated it, we actually used a product that we found in Italy that was close to cream, except for the fact that its state of matter was closer to a solid than a liquid. Instead of the cream, I now use ricotta cheese, which is a more traditional ingredient for this dish. It still creates a pinkish sauce, but also adds some texture. I used ricotta from a tub since that's what I had on hand, but ricotta salata would be even better. The red pepper flakes add a great kick, and really reminds you that this is a southern dish.
Penne alla Norma
-serves 6-8 people-
1 pound penne
red pepper flakes
extra virgin olive oil
2 cups marinara sauce
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon basil
- Cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Place the cubes on a paper towel. Sprinkle salt on the eggplant and cover with another paper towel. Let the eggplant sit for about 15 minutes to extract some of the liquid in it.
- Put the eggplant on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and olive oil. Put the eggplant under the broiler for a few minutes, just until they begin to get a golden brown color.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the penne and cook as directed, about 8 minutes. Remove pasta and drain.
- Toss the pasta with the eggplant, marinara sauce, ricotta, basil, and another pinch of red pepper flakes (depending on how hot you would like it).
Ryan's Sue's rating of Penne alla Norma - 4.5.