“Alla Norma” is a style of pasta sauce native to the Italian island of Sicily. Slow-roasted eggplant is folded into a cherry tomato sauce with onion, garlic, and basil. It’s tossed with corkscrew-shaped cavatappi noodles, ideal for scooping up every saucy bite. And since no pasta would be complete without a little cheese, a creamy whipped ricotta is dolloped overtop.
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup tomato purée
8 ounces cavatappi pasta
4 ounces ricotta cheese
1/8 ounce basil
salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Rinse all produce. Halve eggplant lengthwise; thinly slice crosswise into ¼-inch half-moons, discarding ends. Halve cherry tomatoes. Peel onion, halve, and thinly slice. Using the flat side of a knife, gently crush garlic cloves.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss eggplant with 1½ tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper as desired. Arrange in a single layer and roast until browned and very tender, 13-15 minutes.
3. While eggplant roasts, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium high-sided ovenproof pan over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add onion and garlic and sauté, stirring, until beginning to soften, 3-4 minutes. Stir in crushed red pepper (skip or use half for less heat), tomato purée, and cherry tomatoes. Transfer to oven and cook until sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes. Carefully remove from oven and set aside.
4. While sauce cooks, season boiling water generously with salt. Stir in cavatappi and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water, then drain and set aside.
5. While pasta cooks, in a small bowl, whisk together ricotta and 2 teaspoons olive oil until light and fluffy—this is a great task for a kitchen helper. Season with a pinch of salt and black pepper as desired. Roughly tear or chop basil leaves, discarding stems.
6. Remove and discard crushed garlic from pan with sauce and return to medium heat. Stir in roasted eggplant, cavatappi, half of basil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and black pepper as desired. Add reserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until sauce is silky and clings to noodles. Divide cavatappi alla Norma between serving bowls and top with whipped ricotta and remaining basil. Dig in!
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