Pasta alla Norma with Marta 🌱| Simple Sicilian Dish




 

Today, on the show, Marta showed us another simple Italian dish- this time from Sicily. Marta lives in Sienna and usually prepares Tuscan dishes, but this time she choose a regional dish from Sicily (soccer ball in the map of Italy),  because it's vegetarian and uses spring/summer produce. 

The eggplant, fresh tomato, and ricotta salata make this beautiful dish. You can use tomato puree but the original recipe uses sun-ripened tomatoes. You can make this recipe year around using sweet cherry tomatoes, like I did. Using cherry tomatoes will be better than using hard roma tomatoes or puree, which can make a bitter sauce.

I could not find ricotta salata so I used pecorino romano which substitutes really well. Ricotta salata is unlike creamy ricotta we know for cannoli. Instead it is a hard, cured cheese similar to parmesan. Use pecorino if you have it, and if not, parmesan. 

The technique is simple, as in most Italian dishes. The secret- the freshest, highest quality ingredients. Italy, after all, started the Slow Food movement, which champions the idea of quality over quantity ingredients. 

So, select organic, fresh produce for this recipe!

Thank you Marta for this simple dish. Check out her instagram page for more authentic Italian recipes from Tuscany and other regions. @martascooking

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Pasta alla Norma by Marta

Ingredients (for 2):


  • ½ lb. sedani rigati or rigatoni
  • ½ eggplant, diced small
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 ½ cups tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Ricotta salata (or pecorinio romano) for garnish
  • Grapeseed or vegetable oil for frying
  • Fresh basil


Directions:


1. First make the tomato sauce. Put a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil in a small pan and add 2 peeled garlic cloves. Heat oil gently (medium low heat) until garlic just starts to get golden brown. Then, stand back and add chopped or halved cherry tomatoes. It will smoke a little- that's ok.

Cook tomatoes 15 minutes, stirring every couple minutes. Keep at a medium low. Add a pinch of salt. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat. Use a food mill to process the tomatoes. Remove the garlic cloves. This is the best way to make tomato sauce and removes the skins, but if you don't have a food mill use a blender. Place pureed sauce back in pan, and cook another 15 minutes on low heat, stirring frequently.

2. Meanwhile, dice the eggplant. Place eggplant on a plate with some flour. Toss to coat eggplant pieces in flour. Then, place eggplant in a strainer to shake off the excess flour.

Heat grapeseed or vegetable oil in a large saute pan with higher sides. You should have a generous amount of oil in the pan, at least ¼" up the pan. (The eggplant should swim when you put them in).

Heat oil until it shimmers or when you place a  toothpick in it, it bubbles rapidly. When oil is ready, shake off excess flour from eggplant and place in  hot oil. Spread them out so they don't clump together when cooked. Discard excess flour.

Do not overcrowd eggplant into the pan or it brings the oil temperature down and eggplant absorbs oil. Fry for a couple minutes, just until golden brown on all sides. Then, take out with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towel to drain excess oil. Repeat with second batch if it didn't fit in the first one. Set aside.

3. While the eggplant is cooking, you can begin to boil the pasta. Cook pasta till al dente (a little bite to it). When pasta is ready, toss the pasta into the tomato sauce, add most of the fried eggplant and add 2 leaves of basil. Stir to coat pasta with sauce.

4. To plate, spoon pasta onto a plate, top with some remaining crunchy eggplant pieces, some freshly grated ricotta salata or pecorino, a basil leaf and drizzle of olive oil if desired. Enjoy immediately.

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