BIG TONI’S ITALIAN KITCHEN

Pasta alla Norma                                     Jan 2018

My wife is passionate about Opera, the last time we went to Covent Garden was for her Birthday, all the family went and we had dinner in the Balconies Restaurant. It was eye wateringly expensive but it is a great experience and most importantly she loved it.


I was reminded of this the other day when making Pasta alla Norma, because Pasta alla Norma is not named after someone’s mother, wife or lover as you might think, but after Bellini's 19th-century opera, Norma, which is widely considered the composer's greatest work.


The opera is considered so brilliant the phrase una vera Norma, “a real Norma," was used to acclaim something amazing. 


There are numerous stories about how Pasta alla Norma got its name. 


In one an acclaimed chef, after attending a performance of Norma, was so moved that he decided to create a meal in its honor. 


In another a group of singers from the opera went to eat in Catania and upon tasting the dish exclaimed, “It's a Norma!" -- relating the opera's perfection to that of the Pasta.


It is a simple dish to make with its feet firmly in the south but it has one ingredient, salted ricotta (ricotta salata). Which you might not have in the fridge, but you can get in most Italian Deli’s or large supermarkets.


To finish Pasta alla Norma a dusting of salted ricotta (ricotta salata) over the top of the pasta on the plate to represent the dusting of snow on Mount Etna. 


Use Parmesan if you can’t find it, not as good but needs must.


Serves 4


  • 1 large aubergine (or 2 finger aubergines)
  • Sea Salt, to taste
  • Oil for frying
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 (400g) Tin of Italian chopped tomatoes
  • 400g penne pasta
  • 80 grams grated ricotta salata
  • 10 basil leaves, torn


How to make:


Cut the aubergines into 1/3-inch (1 to 2 centimeter dice). If you're using a large aubergine, you may want to cut these in half too. Sprinkle salt generously over the aubergines and let sit for at least 30 minutes

Rinse the salt off and pat the aubergine slices completely dry with paper towels. 

Fry the aubergines in about half an inch of olive oil until golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain the excess oil on paper towels. 

Set aside until needed.

In the meantime, prepare a simple tomato sauce by gently heating 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Sauté the garlic until fragrant but not colored. 

Add the tomato and about 1/2 a tin of water, and season with salt and pepper. Let simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Towards the end, add the basil leaves and the fried aubergines

Remove from the heat.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt and cook the pasta until al dente. 

Drain the pasta, saving a little of the cooking water if you need to loosen the sauce slightly, and add the pasta to the warm tomato sauce. Toss, over gentle heat, until the pasta is well coated. Serve immediately, sprinkled with grated cheese.


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Norma is a tragedia lirica or opera in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini with libretto by Felice Romani after Norma, ou L'infanticide by Alexandre Soumet. It was first produced at La Scala in Milan on 26 December 1831. Wikipedia

Jason’s Wine recommendations

It’s robust and bold but has some acidity, a perfect marriage.

Massivo Nero d’Avelo 2016 A deep black/red mouthful of ripe, rich and spicy black fruit.

For this hearty Sicilian mainstay meal you need a robust wine to stand up to the tomatoes. Stay with Sicilian as that’s the homeland choice. Try one of their well known grape varieties, NeroD’Avola. It’s robust and bold but has some acidity, a perfect marriage. 

Massivo Nero d’Avelo 2016 – a deep black/red mouthful of ripe, rich and spicy black fruit. Laithwaites £9.99

Pasta alla Norma is not named after someone’s mother, wife or lover as you might think, but after Bellini's 19th-century opera, Norma, which is widely considered the composer's greatest work.