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Classic Pasta alla Norma

4.82 from 11 community reviews

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This is a simple recipe for homemade Sicilian-style pasta alla Norma, an eggplant and tomato recipe that’s ready to serve in less than an hour. One of the classic Italian pasta recipes, it combines tender, bite-size pieces of baked eggplant with tomatoes in a spicy, satisfying red pasta sauce. Serve it over a tubular-cut pasta, such as penne, rigatoni or ziti, and top with ricotta salata cheese.

A photo showing a white serving bowl with rigatoni pasta sauced with tomato, eggplant and ricotta salata cheese.

Pasta alla Norma is a classic Sicilian dish of pasta with eggplant and tomato, paired with perfectly cooked pasta. This downright delicious eggplant pasta sauce is full of roasted eggplant chunks, spicy red chili pepper and sweet fresh tomatoes: Pasta alla Norma.

I know it sounds really simple, but the combination of ingredients in this pasta is out-of-this-world delicious. The meaty eggplant makes this dish feel so satisfying. But I gotta say, it’s that flourish of salty cheese at the end that really makes it shine.

Pasta alle melanzane e pomodoro in Italian, is a classic simple dish with an eggplant tomato sauce that packs in flavor with simple Mediterranean ingredients.
The name of the dish is said to come from a famous Sicilian opera (yes, it’s Norma) composed by Vincenzo Bellini.

Alla Norma sauce is typically a spicy tomato sauce, strewed with pieces of fried eggplant and basil, all served over pasta. The finished dish is strewn with dazzlingly white ricotta salata cheese so that it’s “like snow falling on the mountain.

How to cook eggplant for pasta sauce

Traditional alla Norma preparation involves frying eggplant in abundant amounts of olive oil before it gets combined with the rest of the sauce. That seems like too much of an endeavor for a weeknight dinner. So, I employed my favorite method for dealing with eggplant on the fly: baked eggplant Parmesan.

  1. Peel (if you want) and slice the eggplant into chunks.
  2. Toss with extra-virgin olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet.
  3. Put into a 450-degree oven and roast for about 25 minutes.
A round gray plate with a head of garlic, mini eggplants, fresh red chili and small tomatoes.

I use the same method to make a fuss-free baked eggplant Parmesan mac and cheese. The eggplant soaks up all the flavorful oil, which makes it comes out with golden edges and soft, creamy insides. That is what you would call eggplant perfection!

Like any great eggplant pasta sauce, it’s a perfect match with tomatoes, all of which are perfect with a variety of short pasta shapes. The sauce is basically a variation of an easy homemade marinara sauce, with the addition of spice and chili pepper.

Alla Norma sauce in a skillet, with eggplant, tomatoes fresh basil and a wood stirring spoon.

Good substitutes for ricotta salata

If you’re not familiar with ricotta salata cheese, I urge you to give it a try. Ricotta salata is a staple in Sicilian kitchens. It’s a creamy fresh (not aged) cheese made with sheep’s milk.

You can buy it at many supermarket cheese counters and Italian markets. In the event you have trouble tracking it down, here are some cheeses that will work beautifully in this recipe instead:

  • Feta is a bit creamier and salter than ricotta salata, but will taste delicious in this dish.
  • Mexican cotija or Greek mizithra which is made with a mixture of sheep and goat’s milk, will both taste great.
  • And, you can never go wrong with good fresh mozzarella or burrata.

More pasta recipes to try: Check out more of my classic Italian pasta dinner recipes, like hearty red wine meat sauce, a quick homemade arrabbiata sauce, or home-cooked pasta carbonara.

Rigatoni pasta with an eggplant and tomato sauce in a white serving bowl.

Classic Pasta alla Norma

Karen Tedesco
Follow this simple recipe to cook a homemade pasta alla Norma, or pasta with tomato and eggplant sauce. The classic Italian pasta dish combines tender, bite-size pieces of baked eggplant with chopped tomatoes in a spicy, satisfying red pasta sauce. Serve with a tubular-cut pasta, such as penne, rigatoni or ziti, and top with ricotta salata cheese.
Print Pin
4.82 from 11 community reviews
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Pasta
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients

  • pounds (680 g) eggplant, peeled and sliced into bite-size chunks
  • ¼ cup (90 ml) plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup (80 g) thinly sliced white or red onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic, 2 or 3 cloves
  • 1 fresh red chili pepper, such as Fresno, finely chopped
  • ½-1 teaspoon crushed red chili, to taste
  • 2 pounds (900 g) ripe tomatoes, such as cherry or Campari, diced (or 4 cups canned)
  • 12 ounces (350 g) tubular pasta, such as penne, rigatoni or ziti
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 4 ounces (125 g) ricotta salata cheese, shredded or shaved on a grater into thin slices

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 450 (230 C) degrees.
  • Put the eggplant on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and toss together to coat the eggplant with the oil. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the eggplant is tender and golden brown.
  • Meanwhile, place a large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and the onion. Cook about 5 minutes to soften the onion.
  • Stir in the garlic, fresh and dried crushed chili pepper, tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook at a simmer until the tomatoes give up their liquid and then reduce to a chunky sauce – this should take about 10 minutes.
  • While the tomatoes simmer, bring a large pot (4-6 quarts) of water to a boil and add 3 tablespoons salt. Cook the pasta according to package directions, or until al dente.
  • Drain the pasta. Lower the heat under the tomatoes, then stir in the pasta and eggplant until blended with the sauce.
  • Transfer to a serving dish and top with the basil leaves and cheese. Serve and enjoy!

Karen’s Notes and Tips

  • The eggplant can be baked up to 2 days ahead. Store in the refrigerator in a covered container.
  • If you don’t have ricotta salata cheese, you can substitute with feta, cotija or creamy fresh mozzarella or burrata cheese.

Nutrition

Calories: 390kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 34mg | Potassium: 823mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1596IU | Vitamin C: 36mg | Calcium: 87mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.

Did you make this recipe? Search @Familystylefood or tag #familystylefood on Pinterest
Recipe developer Karen Tedesco of the popular website Familystyle Food in her kitchen making a kale salad.

Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

4.82 from 11 votes (11 ratings without comment)

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2 Comments

  1. Do you use the whole fresh red pepper diced?