Alla Norma is an Italian standby, it’s earthy, homey, and except for the glossy purple eggplant, is made entirely from pantry staples.
Of course, in summer, so there’s nothing stopping you from making this with fresh ripe tomatoes, but during the rest of the year I use a good quality canned. I love the combination of pasta and eggplant. You hardly ever see this dish on menus, but it’s fantastic. Especially when you cook the eggplant the way I do…without any oil! I saute it in a hot dry skillet, which intensifies the flavor and keeps the eggplant firm.
This is a 30-minute meal that doesn’t taste like one. It’s also a great vegetarian option if you are looking for meatless meals to please meat lovers…eggplants are a little bit like mushrooms in that they have a ‘meaty’ texture and earthy flavor that gives a heartiness to meatless dishes. I highly recommend it.
- 3/4 lb fusilli (corkscrew) pasta
- 1 large eggplant
- olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 1 15 oz can of good quality chopped tomatoes (I like to use fire roasted)
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (or water)
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- freshly grated Italian hard cheese (Parmesan, Romano, etc)
- lots of fresh parsley (or basil)
- Cook the pasta in well salted water according to the package instructions.
- Wash and slice the eggplant into small cubes. Heat a skillet over medium heat until it is hot and add the eggplant, dry, to the pan. I like to saute eggplant this way because it intensifies the flavor and the eggplant doesn't get soggy from absorbing too much oil. Keep the eggplant moving while you saute so it doesn't stick to the pan. When it has taken on some color is and beginning to soften, remove it to a plate.
- Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the same pan and saute the onions, red pepper flakes, and garlic for several minutes until the onion starts to soften.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, and vinegar to the pan, along with the eggplant and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer.
- Season the sauce with salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
- Toss with the just cooked pasta and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Serve hot, topped with lots of freshly grated cheese and a generous sprinkling of parsley.