Rigatoni pasta alla Norma, a Sicilian classic – The Pasta Project

Pasta alla Norma is a quite simple however significantly tasty dish from the town of Catania in Sicily. It’s often made with pasta tubes reminiscent of rigatoni or penne rigate seasoned with tomato sauce and with the addition of fried eggplant, salted ricotta and basil.

rigatoni pasta alla Norma

I’ve to admit that earlier than assembly my Sicilian hubby Salvatore, I had by no means eaten pasta alla Norma. Now, in fact, I’ve misplaced depend of what number of occasions I’ve loved this basic and well-known Sicilian pasta recipe. My hubby has cooked it for me, his mum and sisters have cooked it for me and I’ve eaten it in Sicily.

rigatoni pasta alla Norma

I’ve made an ‘alla Norma’ baked lasagna which was fairly good! However, that is my hubby’s recipe and since he hails from Catania, I assume you’ll be able to’t get far more genuine than this! There are a selection of different pasta alla Norma recipes on the market which embrace components reminiscent of capers, wine, onions, pecorino and so forth. however, the basic alla Norma is very simple and makes use of only some components.

ingredients for pasta alla Norma
Collect your components

Slightly pasta alla Norma historical past.

There are a number of theories on how this dish obtained its identify. ‘Norma’ is an opera by Vincenzo Bellini, who was born in Catania. One generally quoted story is that the identify was created by Nino Martoglio, a Sicilian author, poet and theatre director, who liked this dish a lot that he in contrast it to Bellini’s operatic masterpiece.

eggplant slices covered in salt on plate
Lower the eggplants into thick slices and sprinkle salt over them.

One other story is that whereas Bellini was writing his masterpiece, he repeatedly went to a restaurant and ordered simply this dish of pasta, so the proprietor lastly named it after the opera in honour of his well-known buyer. Some say that at the moment, the dish was plated in a barely totally different solution to make it appear to be Sicily’s well-known volcano, Etna. The eggplant was positioned on the backside, a hill of pasta was piled on prime of the eggplant and the tomato sauce with grated ricotta salata coated every little thing!

egglant slices cooking in olive oil in  frying pan
Rinse the salt from the eggplant, pat dry and fry in olive oil

The principle components for pasta alla Norma.


Launched to Sicily by the Arabs in about 900AD, eggplants are to Sicily what potatoes are to Eire. There are three essential varieties of eggplants discovered on the island; the very darkish oval or lengthy ones that most individuals exterior of Italy know, oval zebra eggplants which have a lighter striped pores and skin and the extra rotund, lighter colored Sicilian eggplant.

Fried eggplant slices on glass plate.
When the eggplants are prepared, put aside on a plate.

The latter are what my husband used for this recipe. This eggplant has a dense whiter flesh and fewer seeds than the extra widespread eggplant. However, in fact, you should use whichever sort you discover.

Peeled garlic cloves cooking in olive oil  in frying pan
Sauté the garlic cloves in olive oil.


In the case of the tomatoes, recent is greatest particularly if you may get maintain of San Marzano tomatoes. Nonetheless, a superb high quality Italian passata rustica or tinned complete tomatoes from Italy work properly too. Alternatively you should use a mix of recent tomatoes and passata. This time we used simply passata.

Tomato passata added to frying pan
Take away the garlic and add tomato passata or peeled tomatoes to the pan.

The cheese!

As with many pasta recipes, cheese is greater than mere seasoning  for pasta alla Norma. You possibly can’t have it with out the cheese which actually must be ricotta salata. It is a typical Sicilian cheese. The phrase ‘ricotta’ means re-cooked and ‘salata’ means salted. Ricotta Salata is cheese comprised of the whey of sheep’s milk, which is pressed, salted and aged for at the least 90 days. It’s milky white in color with a agency texture and salty style.

pieces of fried eggplant in frying pan with tomato sauce
Lower half the eggplant slices into small items and add to the tomato sauce.

Ricotta salata might be purchased from Italian speciality meals retailers or on-line, however for those who can’t discover it, you should use feta, ideally aged feta. You’ll need to let the feta dry out a bit earlier than grating it. Simply pat it dry with kitchen paper and depart it to dry out at room temperature for a few hours.

Rigatoni pasta from pasta makers Liguori
Rigatoni from pasta makers Liguori

The pasta!

As I discussed above pasta alla Norma is historically made with quick pasta tubes reminiscent of rigatoni. We used rigatoni from pasta makers Liguori. This firm is situated in Gragnano close to Naples. Gragnano is known for its dried pasta. Actually, they’ve been making pasta there for greater than 500 years! And, I believe among the greatest Italian pasta comes from there! Nonetheless, you should use different pasta tubes and even spaghetti.

Cooked pasta in a bowl mixed with tomato and eggplant sauce with basil leaves on top
Prepare dinner the pasta, drain and blend with the sauce. Add some recent basil and serve with grated ricotta salata.

Let me know what you suppose.

In Catania, households historically place the remaining ricotta salata with the grater and a plate with further fried eggplant slices in the midst of the desk. As they eat their pasta alla Norma, they typically add further cheese and eggplant alongside the way in which!  Not a nasty thought!

My hubby Salvatore eating his pasta alla Norma
Salvatore having fun with his pasta alla Norma.

Should you do do that pasta alla Norma, I’d love to listen to what you suppose. Please write a remark right here on the weblog or put up a touch upon the Pasta Challenge Fb web page.

Your suggestions means so much to me!

Buon Appetito!


If you wish to save this recipe for later, you’ll be able to print it, bookmark this web page or put it aside to Pinterest.

Different basic Sicilian pasta recipes to strive.

  1. Pasta con sarde with sardines and wild fennel
  2. Baked anelletti
  3. Pasta with ricotta and pistachio pesto
  4. Spaghetti with salt cod (baccalà)

This recipe was first revealed in 2017, but it surely has been up to date with new photographs and textual content.

rigatoni pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma

Jacqueline De Bono’s hubby Salvatore

This basic and well-known vegetarian Sicilian pasta dish  is stuffed with Mediterranean summer season flavours. It is easy to make and excellent for household meals and particular events.

Prep Time 20 minutes

Prepare dinner Time 1 hr

Whole Time 1 hr 20 minutes

Course Essential Course

Delicacies Italian, Mediterranean, Sicilian, Southern Italian

Servings Four

Energy 688 kcal


  • 400 g Rigatoni (14oz) or different pasta tubes
  • 500 g San Marzano tomatoes (1lb) or tomato passata or half and half
  • 2-Four eggplants Relying on measurement
  • three garlic cloves peeled
  • 10-12 basil leaves chopped
  • 150 g Ricotta Salata (5oz) grated
  • further virgin olive oil. as required
  • salt for pasta water and to style
  • floor black pepper to style


Put together the tomato sauce;

  • In case you are utilizing recent tomatoes, peel them by immersing them in boiling water after which chilly water after which eradicating the pores and skin. Lower them in half, take away many of the pips and chop them into items

  • Warmth up Four tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan or skillet, Add the peeled cloves of garlic and allow them to brown just a little. 

  • Add the chopped tomatoes and prepare dinner for 5-10 minutes till they begin to soften.

  • Add the passata, stir properly, add a pinch of salt and prepare dinner for an additional 10 minutes (20 minutes if you’re utilizing solely passata)

Fry the eggplants;

  • Fry the eggplant slices in loads of sizzling olive oil till they flip golden on both sides, dry them with kitchen paper if required, then minimize a few of them into small squares (depart at the least one slice for every particular person).

  • Add a few of these squares to the saucepan of tomato sauce (depart sufficient so as to add a number of to every particular person’s plate)

Prepare dinner the pasta;

  • Prepare dinner the pasta al dente in boiling salted water, drain it and add it to the sauce, which can have to be reheated first for those who cooked it earlier. Add black pepper to style and the basil. Combine the pasta and the sauce collectively properly.

serve alla Norma;

  • Put one complete fried eggplant slice into the underside of every plate, cowl with the pasta and sauce, add a number of extra squares of fried eggplant and sprinkle with grated ricotta salata. Serve instantly


In Catania,  households historically place the remaining ricotta salata with the grater and a plate with further fried eggplant slices in the midst of the desk. As they eat, they typically add further cheese and eggplant alongside the way in which!  Not a nasty thought!
This recipe might be made with any quick tubular pasta reminiscent of penne or rigatoni, which Sicilians typically seek advice from as maccheroni. It’s higher is the pasta is ‘rigate’ with ridges or grooves. You may as well use spaghetti.

Key phrase alla Norma, eggplants, rigatoni, Sicilian pasta, vegetarian

Wish to know extra about my life in Italy? Why not subscribe to my e-newsletter? New subscribers get a free sequence of recipe e-books too!

In case you are curious about studying the right way to make selfmade pasta and several types of gnocchi, try my store web page for some nice video on-line programs from my pals in Rome! Nothing beats studying to make pasta from Italians! Plus when you’re there why not order a replica of my newly revealed autumn/winter pasta recipes cookbook?


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.