Sicilian Rigatoni alla Norma is thought to be named after a popular Italian opera, or maybe for the region’s norms and traditions—but semantics aside, we can all agree that this dish is delicious. This version gets a double dose of cheese with a sprinkling of ricotta salata—a salted, aged ricotta that adds nutty balance to the rich, fresh version whipped with olive oil and dolloped on top.
1 pint cherry tomatoes
¼ ounce basil, divided
1 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup ricotta cheese
8 ounces rigatoni
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup tomato purée
2 ounces ricotta salata
3 tablespoons + ½ teaspoon olive oil
8″ medium pot with lid
10″ medium high-sided pan
Covering the water will help it boil faster and prevent it from evaporating before you’re ready to cook your rigatoni.
While it cooks, pasta will release starches into the boiling water. Adding some reserved pasta water to the sauce will help it cling to the noodles. It’s easiest to reserve this water in a liquid measuring cup, if you have one.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Bring a medium, covered pot of water to a boil over high heat (see Recipe Tip). Rinse all produce. Halve eggplants lengthwise, then cut crosswise into ¼-inch half-moons, discarding ends. Halve cherry tomatoes. Roughly tear or chop basilleaves, discarding stems. Peel onion, halve, and thinly slice. Mince garlic.
Drain and discard liquid from ricotta, if necessary, then place cheese in a small bowl. Whisk in 2 teaspoons olive oiluntil mixture becomes light and fluffy. Season with a pinch of salt and black pepper as desired. Set aside until ready to serve.
On a baking sheet, toss eggplant with 1½ tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and black pepper as desired. Arrange in a single layer and roast, flipping halfway through, until very tender, 20-22 minutes total.
While eggplant roasts, season boiling water generously with salt. Stir in rigatoni and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes. Reserve ½ cup pasta cooking water, then drain and set aside (see Recipe Tip).
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium high-sided pan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add onion. Sauté, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper (skip or use half for less heat), cherry tomatoes, and garlic, and cook until fragrant, 3-4 minutes. Add tomato purée and simmer until flavors have melded, 5 minutes more. Season with ¼ teaspoon salt and black pepper. Remove pan from heat.
Once eggplant is roasted, return pan with sauce to medium heat. Stir in rigatoni and half of basil. Adding 1 tablespoon at a time, stir in reserved pasta water until sauce clings to noodles. Remove pan from heat and stir in roasted eggplant. Divide rigatoni alla Norma between plates, sprinkle over ricotta salata and remaining basil, and dollop over whipped ricotta. Enjoy!
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