Pasta Alla Norma
I have a strange relationship with some vegetables. By strange I mean I largely hate some of them, except for in a specific dish. Eggplant is one of those vegetables. I do love it the way it’s prepared in southern Italy – that’s because this technique removes the “mush” factor. But I also love it in this pasta dish.This is a really simple dish to make, and is a great meatless option.
- 2 medium eggplant (about 1½ to 2 pounds)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes (see Notes), crushed
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons basil paste (see Notes)
- 8 ounces pasta, cooked al dente, cooking water reserved
- 1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
- Use a vegetable peeler to peel some of the tough skin off of the eggplant - work in strips leaving a zebra look of some skin still on and some peeled. Slice the eggplant into ½ inch thick slices and lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees until slightly soft, about 20 minutes, then put in a bowl and cover to let it steam a bit. Cut the slices into quarters.
- Heat the tomatoes in a saucepan over medium high heat along with the red pepper and basil. Reduce and simmer for 10 minutes then add the eggplant and cooked pasta. Add desired amount of pasta cooking water if the sauce is too thick. Serve immediately and top with cheese.
2. When I harvest basil each year instead of making pesto I simply whirl it in the food processor with just enough olive oil to make a paste, then freeze it in ice cube trays. One cube is perfect for this dish.