Alrighty then, who the hell is Norma? I have no idea, something about an Opera, or summat…What we do know, though, is that it’s a delicious Sicilian classic, full of the flavours of the South if Italy. What we also know is that it’s easy to make, and inexpensive too. Also, meat eaters and veggies alike can both enjoy it!
It’s based around the wonderful vegetable that is the aubergine. Alongside it, chuck in a few tomatoes, garlic, basil and a little cheese, and you’ve got yourself a banging’ dinner quicker than you can say…'Norma!’
We’ve made it with fresh egg tagliatelle, but to be honest it would work with most things. Steer clear of spaghetti perhaps - the aubergine chunks will slide right off it.
Anyway, down to the recipe:
Tagliatelle alla Norma
2 small aubergines
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 x 400g tin chopped organic tomatoes
Small handful grated Parmesan cheese
Small handful of fresh basil leaves, torn up a little
200-300g fresh tagliatelle, or other pasta, depending on hunger levels
Ricotta salata, if you can find it, to garnish. (Fresh ricotta works too though)
1 Cut the aubergine into chunky slices lengthways, and those into strips. Then cut the strips into chunks, around 5cm by 2cm. There’s no real wrong or right here, if you prefer bigger chunks of aubergine that’s ok too. Salt the aubergine with a decent scattering of sea salt, and mix around so all the pieces have a little on them. Put in a colander and leave for a minimum of 1 hour - this will draw out excess moisture and bitterness, leaving your aubergines meatier and sweeter.
2 Put a couple of really good lugs of olive oli in the frying pan - you want the base to be well covered. Cook your aubergines on a medium-high heat, in two batches if there are too many for your pan, until golden and soft.
3 Remove the aubergines from the pan and set aside. Put another splash of oil in the pan, and pop in your peeled cloves of garlic, whole but bashed on their side a little. Fry in the oil for a few minutes on a low heat; be careful not to let them brown. Throw in the tomatoes, aubergine and half the basil, and put on a high simmer for about 10-15 minutes. You know it’s ready when it has thickened up nicely. Remove the cloves of garlic (if you can find them!) Throw in the Parmesan cheese and mix well.
4 Toss your cooked pasta, (which will only take a few minutes in salted boiling water if it’s fresh), in the sauce, adding a few spoons of pasta water if it’s all looking a bit dry (you can save a mug of the pasta water for this from when you drain the pasta).
Mix well and serve with a sprinkling of ricotta over the top, and the rest of the basil.