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Pasta Alla Norma

Pasta Alla Norma

A plate of Pasta Alla Norma with parmesan cheese on top.

Pasta Alla Norma is a simple, delicious recipe to share among friends or at a family celebration. Easy to make with simple, wholesome ingredients, it’s a triumph of rich and authentic flavors.

Want more Italian recipes? Try Chicken Cacciatore, Tomato and Basil Bruschetta, or Classic Italian Risotto!

A plate of Pasta Alla Norma topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Why we love this recipe:

  • Flavor – A Mediterranean recipe with intense, distinctly Italian flavors: tomato, eggplant, basil, and lots of flavor from the salted ricotta. The final taste is unique due to the sweetish flavor of the ripe tomatoes with the contrast of salt from the cheese that will melt in your mouth with every forkful.
  • Easy and Quick – This easy Pasta Alla Norma recipe requires no skill nor any special kitchen tools.
  • Vegetarian Recipe – Naturally vegetarian, and with gluten-free pasta, it is suitable for people with Celiac disease.

Choose high-quality ingredients

  • Tomatoes: Use very ripe tomatoes or some tomato sauce, e.g., Mutti.
  • Salted Ricotta: It must be salted and preferably made from sheep’s milk if you can find it. 
  • Eggplant: Pasta Alla Norma requires fresh, intact eggplant, purple, and slightly oval, Italian-type eggplant. 
  • Basil: It must be fresh; otherwise, the flavor will be less intense.
  • Oil: It must be an extra virgin olive oil to preserve the flavors of the original recipe.
  • Pasta: It must be ribbed (penne or rigatoni) so it will hold and absorb the sauce better.

How to make Pasta Alla Norma:

Chop Tomatoes: Remove the stems but leave the skin on. Coarsely chop them and remove the seeds under running water. Cook Pasta.

Two images showing rigatoni pasta being poured into boiling water, and a pot full of chopped tomatoes.

Make Sauce: This is the most time-consuming step because the tomatoes need to be cooked for a long time, at least 30 minutes. The tomatoes should cook and melt slowly with the poached garlic, salt, and oil. Remember to leave the poached garlic without crushing it because it has to give the aroma without overpowering the other flavors.

Two images showing a chunky Pasta Alla Norma sauce being pureed with an immersion blender.

Prepare Eggplant: Do not peel it; this is typical of the recipe and will make the eggplant retain its texture. Eggplant can leave a bitter taste that can spoil the dish. Therefore, before frying it, it is necessary to:  

  • Slice it lengthwise ¼ inch 
  • Place the slices in a perforated plate in a single layer and sprinkle them generously with coarse salt;
  • Let them rest for about 20 minutes (while the tomatoes are cooking)
  • Rinse off the salt in cold running water and dry them with a paper towel. Be careful, if the eggplant slices are not dry, they absorb too much oil and become indigestible. 
Sliced eggplant sprinkled with salt in a metal dish to release moisture for  the best Pasta Alla Norma recipe.

Fry Eggplant: After blotting well, the eggplant should be deep-fried at 350°F until golden brown. Once cooked, blot off the excess oil.

A slice of eggplant being fried in a pot of oil.

Serve Hot: Add the eggplant once the tomatoes are cooked. Finally, add the freshly grated cheese on top of the cooked pasta. Be generous; the more cheese, the tastier the Norma will be, and the more it will melt in your mouth.

Freshly grated parmesan cheese falling down from the grater on to the pile of hot and easy Pasta Alla Norma.

Recipe Variations:

  • Eggplant: The eggplant can be cut into cubes if you prefer. Grill the eggplant or bake it in the oven to make it lighter. If you don’t have eggplant, you can use zucchini! The process is the same; you can fry the slices or grill them.
  • Cottage Cheese: You can also replace the salted ricotta with fresh cottage cheese.
  • Spicy: Add whole or dried chili pepper to the sauce if you like it spicy.
  • Vegan: Replace the salted ricotta salata with tofu, preferably smoked. Crumble it over the hot pasta.
  • Make Norma Plain: Don’t add tomatoes if you are not a tomato lover!

Make Ahead and Storage Instructions:

To Make Ahead: The best Pasta Alla Norma recipe should be freshly prepared and served hot with the melted cheese. The only item you can prepare in advance is the tomato sauce, which you can keep for about two days in the refrigerator.

To Store: Keep Pasta Alla Norma in the refrigerator. Leftovers can also be eaten cold the next day. It will be like a delicious pasta salad!

For my authentic Italian recipes, be sure to follow Stefania’s Kitchenette!

pasta alla norma
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Pasta Alla Norma

Pasta Alla Norma is a simple, delicious recipe to share among friends or when at a family celebration.
Course Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 42 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 476kcal

Equipment

Ingredients

For the sauce

  • 3.5 lb tomatoes , ripe, (1.5 kg) 
  • 1 lb purple Italian eggplant (450g)
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese , salted, (100g)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 4 tbs extra virgin olive oil , Bertolli
  • salt , fine, to taste

For the eggplant:

  • coarse salt
  • 1 liter extra virgin olive oil , or seed oil for frying

For the pasta:

  • 3 ½ cups Barilla or De Cecco Rigatoni or Mezze Maniche pasta (360g)
  • 3 liters water
  • 2 ¼ cups coarse salt (30g)

Instructions

  • Wash and dry the eggplant well. Cut the eggplant into slices about ¼ inch lengthwise. Sprinkle with salt and leave slices to drain for at least 15 minutes.
  • Coarsely chop tomatoes and transfer them to a saucepan with oil, salt, 2 cloves of poached garlic, and basil. Allow it to cook for about 30 minutes.
  • Remove the garlic (if you like more flavor, leave it in the tomatoes);
  • Purée the tomatoes with an immersion blender at a very low speed.
  • Transfer sauce to a frying pan, add the last clove of garlic and a few basil leaves.
  • Fry eggplant slices at 350°F (180°C) in extra virgin olive oil, drain them, and pat them well with paper towels. Add slices to tomato sauce.
  • Cook the pasta al dente in boiling salted water (3 liters of water with 1.5 tablesoons (30g) of salt). Drain when ready.
  • Sauté the pasta in the pan with the sauce and eggplant over high heat for a couple of minutes.
  • Flavor it with remaining basil, divided among the plates, and add a generous amount of grated salted ricotta on each plate.
  • Serve the plates of Pasta Alla Norma while very hot.

Notes

Variations:
  • Eggplant: The eggplant can be cut into cubes if you prefer. Grill the eggplant or bake it in the oven to make it lighter. If you don’t have eggplant, you can use zucchini! The process is the same; you can fry the slices or grill them.
  • Cottage Cheese: You can also replace the salted ricotta with fresh cottage cheese.
  • Spicy: Add whole or dried chili pepper to the sauce if you like it spicy.
  • Vegan: Replace the salted ricotta salata with tofu, preferably smoked. Crumble it over the hot pasta.
  • Make Norma Plain: Don’t add tomatoes if you are not a tomato lover!
Make Ahead Instructions: Pasta Alla Norma should be freshly prepared and served hot with the melted cheese. The only item you can prepare in advance is the tomato sauce, which you can keep for about two days in the refrigerator.
Storage Instructions: Keep Pasta Alla Norma in the refrigerator. Leftovers can also be eaten cold the next day. It will be like a delicious pasta salad!

Nutrition

Calories: 476kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 16mg | Sodium: 63750mg | Potassium: 1378mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 16g | Vitamin A: 3576IU | Vitamin C: 58mg | Calcium: 195mg | Iron: 3mg

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