Pasta Alla Norma

Pasta Alla Norma
Staff Writer
Pasta Alla Norma

Tara Donne

Pasta Alla Norma

In his restaurants and food ventures such as Del Posto and Eataly, restaurateur Joe Bastianich, author of The New York Times best-seller Restaurant Man, is known for his Italian sensibility — using high-quality, local ingredients prepared as simply as possible. This is a primo example: a dish with its roots in Sicily, from whence hailed composer Vincenzo Bellini. His 1831 opera La Norma has long been believed to be the source of the time-honored name of this homey pasta dish, honoring both the opera and the typical dish of its composer's birthplace.

Noted Italian food writer Giuliano Bugialli, however, whose opinion is usually well worth hearing, feels this is nonsense, that the name simply means "pasta in the usual manner," a nod to its everyday status in Sicily. That's a far less romantic story, but whichever one you prefer, there's no denying the homey, hearty appeal of a plate of tender pasta, fried eggplant cubes, tomato sauce, and cheese.

In Sicily, the usual finish is a sprinkle of salty, dry ricotta salata, but that can be difficult to find in the States. Bastianich embellishes his version with onions for extra flavor and finishes it with a dollop of creamy ricotta. Even Bellini would have to be pleased with that.

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For the pomodoro sauce

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Then, add the crushed tomatoes and reduce the heat to a simmer.

For the pasta

Continue simmering the pomodoro sauce in a saucepan over low heat. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and place them on paper towels to allow some of the bitter liquid to drain out. Dust the eggplant with flour.

Heat ¼-inch olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Add the eggplant cubes and cook, turning frequently to brown on all sides, and adding a little more oil if needed. (The eggplant should be crisp and browned on the outside and tender on the inside.) Remove from the pan and place on paper towels to allow the oil to drain.

In the same pan, cook the onion in the oil, stirring frequently, until tender. Add it to the pomodoro sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Meanwhile, add the eggplant cubes to the pomodoro sauce and heat.

Remove the pasta from the water 2 minutes before it is done and add it to the pomodoro sauce. Add a little pasta water, if necessary, to keep the sauce liquid. Cook until the pasta is tender. Serve with a dollop of ricotta.


Calories per serving:

629 calories

Dietary restrictions:

High Fiber Vegetarian, Egg Free, Peanut Free, Tree Nut Free, Soy Free, Fish Free, Shellfish Free, Pork Free, Alcohol Free, No Sugar Added, Kosher

Daily value:



  • Fat 11g 17%
  • Carbs 113g 38%
  • Saturated 3g 13%
  • Fiber 12g 49%
  • Sugars 18g
  • Monounsaturated 6g
  • Polyunsaturated 2g
  • Protein 22g 44%
  • Cholesterol 8mg 3%
  • Sodium 394mg 16%
  • Calcium 149mg 15%
  • Magnesium 125mg 31%
  • Potassium 1,225mg 35%
  • Iron 5mg 26%
  • Zinc 3mg 18%
  • Phosphorus 351mg 50%
  • Vitamin A 42µg 5%
  • Vitamin C 25mg 41%
  • Thiamin (B1) 0mg 23%
  • Riboflavin (B2) 0mg 16%
  • Niacin (B3) 5mg 27%
  • Vitamin B6 1mg 33%
  • Folic Acid (B9) 88µg 22%
  • Vitamin B12 0µg 1%
  • Vitamin D 0µg 0%
  • Vitamin E 4mg 20%
  • Vitamin K 20µg 25%
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