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Pasta alla norma

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Pasta alla Norma is one of Sicily’s most loved pasta dishes. Originating in Catania, (Sicily’s second biggest city) it is rumoured to have been named after Vincenzo Bellini’s well-loved opera ‘Norma’, due to its greatness!

A vegetarian favourite, the sauce consists of golden fried aubergine in a simple tomato sauce, topped with basil and wonderfully salty ricotta salata (a pressed and salted type of ricotta). Although the dish is usually served with macaroni or rigatoni, but we’ve gone for boccole. The sauce clings to its ridges beautifully, and the large holes are just the right size to stow glistening morsels of golden aubergine.

As with all the Italian greats, there is much debate over ‘the definitive’ recipe from one household to the next. Is it best to slice or dice the aubergine before frying? Is wine permitted? Whether you add a sprinkle of chilli flakes to the sauce, or garnish with a few crispy capers, everyone has their favourite version.

Ingredients

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Method

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1
To begin, evenly dice the aubergine into 1–2cm cubes and sprinkle with salt. Leave in a colander for 10 minutes to draw out any excess moisture
2
Gently sauté the minced garlic in 1 tbsp of olive oil for about 30 seconds, or until just soft (do not allow the garlic to colour or it will impart a bitter flavour into the sauce)
3
Add the tomatoes (if using whole tinned tomatoes, roughly chop them before adding)
4
Simmer for 10–15 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Stir intermittently to avoid any sticking
5
Meanwhile, rinse the salt from the aubergine and pat dry with kitchen paper. Shallow fry the aubergine in olive oil until golden (you may need to do this in batches)
6
Once golden, drain on kitchen paper to remove any excess oil
7
Cook the pasta in a pan of heavily salted boiling water for 8–10 minutes, or as per packet instructions
8
Once the pasta is cooked al dente, drain and add to the tomato sauce. Add the aubergine and toss so the pasta is evenly coated in the sauce
9
Garnish with shavings of ricotta salata and torn basil leaves
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