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Homemade Pasta alla Norma (Tomato and Eggplant Pasta)

4.82 from 11 community reviews

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This is a simple recipe for homemade Sicilian-style pasta alla Norma, ready to serve in less than an hour. The classic Italian pasta dish 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.

Pasta alla Norma in 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.

Pasta alle melanzane e pomodoro in Italian, is a classic simple dish that packs in flavor and good-for-you ingredients.
Supposedly, the name of the dish comes from a famous Sicilian opera (yes, it’s Norma) composed by Vincenzo Bellini.

After briefly reading the tragic plot of the opera, I can’t quite figure out the connection between an ancient Roman love triangle and a delectable plate of pasta. It is what it is, as the saying goes!

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

Pasta with tomato sauce — not a week goes by in our house when we’re not enjoying it in some form. Well, sometimes our pasta is sauced with shrimp in garlic butter — but that’s another story!

Depending on the mood and the weather, not to mention how urgently dinner needs to be made and consumed, I might cook one of our favorite classic Italian pasta dinner recipes, like hearty Red Wine Meat Sauce, a quick homemade arrabbiata sauce, or home-cooked pasta carbonara.

Recipe steps

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.

An overhead view of a baking pan with various sizes of red tomatoes.

Traditionally, the eggplant is fried 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.

  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.

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.

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 ricotta salata cheese at the end that really makes it shine.

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.

Two white serving bowls with rigatoni pasta sauced with tomato, eggplant and ricotta salata cheese.

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.

Using either of the latter two in this dish will change the character and authenticity somewhat. As always, go with what tastes good to you!

Pasta alla Norma - Spicy Tomato and Eggplant Pasta

Homemade 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.

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.

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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.

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2 Comments

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