Pasta alla Norma – Sicily
Sicily is the southern most region of Italy encompassing the large Island at the tip of the boot and some smaller islands surrounding it. Mt. Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe and is Sicily’s most prominent landmark. The north end of the island is mountainous and is home to several volcanoes. The rest of the island is very hilly and intensely cultivated having been home to civilizations for a very long time, in some cases predating the Greeks. Greece had a strong presence in Sicily and today is has a lot of remnants of Hellenistic culture and Greek temples. The Necropolis of Pantaica and the Valley of Temples are some of these. Sicily is especially well known in the U.S. because there was a huge population of Italians that emigrated to America between the 1880’s and the 1920’s and even today a large number of young people move from Sicily to other parts of the world. Tourism is a large industry in Sicily as is agriculture because of its fertile volcanic soil.
Sicily’s main crops include wheat, citrus, tomatoes, olives, artichoke, almonds, prickly pear, grapes, and pistachio. Cattle and sheep are widely raised and the production of good quality cheese in the region has some acclaim. Ragusano and Pecorino Siciliano are the most famous. Wine is the other highly regarded product of the region and it is recognized mainly for Marsala wines. The best known local wine is Nero d’Avola (Glorioso’s is proud to carry our own brand of this varietal). Sicily has also been very successful in producing some non-local varietals as well such as Syrah, Chardonnay, and Merlot.
Some of the famous dishes that hail from Sicily include Arancini, Caponata, Pasta alla Norma, Sarde a Beccafico, and Cannoli.
Pasta alla Norma
- Glorioso’s Napa Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- salt and pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- pinch of crushed red pepper
- 12 basil leaves, plus a few extra for garnish
- 4 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes with juice (fresh or canned)
- 3-4 small eggplants (about 2 lbs), peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 lb pasta (penne, rigatoni, or spaghetti)
- 1 cup coarsely grated ricotta
- 1/4 cup Glorioso’s house-made bread crumbs or Roman Candles (best if homemade)
Make a quick tomato sauce: In a deep skillet over medium-high heat add 2 tblsps olive oil. Add onions, season with salt and pepper and cook until soft, stirring occationally (about 10 minutes).
Stir in garlic, red pepper, and basil leaves. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, stir and bring to a gentle simmer (about 20 minutes) until slightly thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Turn heat to low and cover pot until it’s time to cook the pasta.
Put a wide cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add 4 tblsps olive oil to coat surface of the pan. When oil is wavy (test by adding a cube of eggplant, it should sizzle and brown immediately), fill the pan with a single layer of eggplant cubes. Turn eggplant with a spatula or tongs and brown nicely on all sides. Lower heat as necessary to maintain an even tmeperature (if eggplant is burning the pan is too hot).
Remove eggplant and plate and continue to fry remaining eggplant in batches, adding more oil as necessary. Season finished eggplant with salt and pepper. (alternatively roast the eggplant on a baking steet at 400 degrees, lightly drizzled with oil, until cooked and browned, about 20 min)
Boil pasta until al dente, leaving it a little firmer than normal. Bring the tomato sauce to a simmer. Add eggplant to sauce and gently stir to combine. Reserve a cup of pasta cooking water, then drain pasta and add to sauce. Toss pasta in sauce and let cook 1 more minute, Thin if necessary with a little pasta water.
Top with grated ricotta and bread crumbs. Garnish with basil leaves and drizzle with olive oil.