A Sicilian classic, Pasta Alla Norma showcases soft and velvety aubergines, rich tomatoes, oregano, garlic and basil sauce coating heaps of perfectly al dente pasta strands. Easy doesn't always mean labour intensive. Pasta Alla Norma is a simple yet classic dish which delivers deep and rich flavours in less than 20 mins.
2/3 Medium aubergines, diced
1 Large white onion, chopped
Half punnet chestnut mushrooms, sliced
4 large fresh vine tomatoes, diced
1 large fresh red chilli, sliced
4 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp tomato puree
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp dried or fresh oregano
Fresh basil or parsley to garnish
Dried Mafaldine pasta (I used this for texture but you can, of course, use your favourite, such as spaghetti, bucatini, tagliatelle, etc)
One important step in preparing aubergines is by salting them slightly before cooking to help remove the bitter liquid that resides within them. For years I used to skip this step but oh wow, what a difference it makes! The result is a smooth, rich and creamy texture to the aubergines that helps them to soak up the flavours of the sauce rather than just the oil you use to cooking them in.
Before you prep anything else, cut the aubergines lengthways, then into 2-inch cubes, add to a colander with some paper towels underneath and toss them in a little salt. Leave to sit for 10-15mins whilst you prepare the rest of the ingredients. When ready, rinse the aubergine pieces and pat dry with some paper towels, then they are ready to use as you usually would.
In a frying pan, with a little olive/avocado oil, little fry the onions until translucent and then add the garlic for around 30 seconds, being careful not to let it burn. Add the chilli and the tomato puree and fry off for another minute or so, then add the chopped tomatoes and the passata and bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Add in the aubergine you prepared earlier, the chopped chestnut mushrooms, dried oregano and salt and pepper to taste.
Cook your pasta in a large pot of boiling water with plenty of salt as per packet instructions (deduct 2 minutes for perfect al dente pasta every time!)
Simmer the pasta sauce on a low to medium heat, stirring occasionally until the tomato sauce starts to reduce and thicken.
Reserve half a cup of the pasta water before draining and then add the drained pasta to the sauce (not the other way around) and add a little of the reserved pasta water to the pot. Increase the heat slightly, add freshly torn basil and toss the pasta in the sauce until the sauce is velvety and silky and everything is coated nicely.
Serve with fresh basil and a little of my nutty parm but it's perfectly good on its own too!
If you liked this recipe for Pasta Alla Norma, why not try my Stuffed Pasta Shells?