Pasta alla Norma

From Gail Norton

2013 Mar/Apr

This recipe comes from The Cookbook Co. Cooks’ longtime guest cook Allan Shewchuk, who says, “In the winter, my favourite recipes are deep, rich, slow-cooked sauces with big, wide noodles such as pappardelle or rigatoni. This Sicilian recipe is fabulous because it’s vegetarian, and the combination of the tomatoes, eggplant and fresh mint makes it so delicious, you won’t care that there’s no meat. Named for an opera character, this recipe is a staple of every home in Sicily. Enjoy it with a hearty Sicilian Nero D’Avola.”


  • 4 T. extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 t. dried chile flakes
  • 2 medium eggplants, cut into medium dice
  • 1 28 oz. can tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs fresh basil
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 250 g. ricotta salata coarsely grated – reserve some for garnish
  • 1/4 bunch fresh mint, leaves chopped – reserve some for garnish
  • 1/4 bunch flat leaf (Italian) parsley, leaves chopped – reserve some for garnish
  • fresh basil leaves (for garnish)
  • 500 g. rigatoni or other large-tubed pasta


In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil until it’s hot. Turn the heat to medium and add the onion and garlic and cook the mixture until it’s soft but not browned. Add the chile flakes. Add the eggplant – and watch as it absorbs all the oil. Let it get soft and lightly browned while you stir it regularly for 8 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the basil and thyme sprigs and bring the sauce to a boil. Simmer it for 15 minutes, uncovered, and season it with salt and pepper.

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil for the pasta. Add 2 T. salt. Cook the pasta until it’s al dente. Drain it thoroughly and pour the hot pasta into the pan with the sauce. Add the ricotta salata and heat it through. Just before serving the pasta, add the mint and the parsley, leaving just a bit for garnishing the top of the pasta when you serve it. You can add more basil too, or more hot chile flakes to taste. Stir the pasta well and scoop it into warm pasta bowls. Sprinkle it with a little more ricotta salata and fresh mint and parsley, top it with basil leaves and serve it hot. Drizzle a little more olive oil over it for good measure. Serves 8 as a primo course, or 4 as a main course.