Day 27: Pasta Alla Norma
inspired by Norma
Over the weekend I was reading up on new recipes. Now the lockdown is extended I’m starting to worry I might run out of inspiration. Not likely I know!
I came across this Ottolenghi article in the Guardian about recipes for lockdown.
To begin with I didn’t think I would bother reading it. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m getting tired of hearing about things I can do with tinned tomatoes.
But I love the way Ottolenghi writes so I do read it. And I’m so glad I did. Here is how he starts…
” After the first few minutes of boiling, spaghetti are just stringy strands that you really wouldn’t want to eat. But at about the seven-minute mark, things start to change: the strands begin to yield and soften, before, eventually, they give in and give way, ready to be sauced up and spruced up. The past few months have felt a bit like this, too, as the world was thrown into hot water and told to change its form. We may not have reached that seven-minute mark quite just yet, but our ability to adapt and acclimatise gives me hope that we soon will. For now, though, the kitchen is our safe space, even if the question “What do I want for dinner?” has now changed to: “How do I make do with what I have?” “
Nothing I have read recently has encapsulated how I’m feeling more than this does. I almost cried. Not because I’m sad, but just from a kind of relief. A realisation that it is OK not to quite be at that seven-minute mark yet. I reckon I’m about 5 minutes right now. So that means things can only get better.
I should have know that words that resonated with me would involve pasta.
Pasta is, by far, my favourite food of all time.
And I realised I haven’t included pasta on this blog since Day 6! That’s 21 days ago! What have I been doing??
In fact I have still been eating pasta. Just not blogging about it. Time to change that.
So to take Ottolenghi’s advice. I look in my fridge thinking “what do I have?”. I have an aubergine.
Instantly I know what’s for dinner. It has to be Pasta Alla Norma. A Sicilian aubergine pasta dish. So simple, so delicious! I ate it on our first night in Sicily last year when we went there for a week. That was a very good week. Mainly because of the very good food.
Ever since I’ve been meaning to make this dish at home.
Also ever since coming back I’ve been meaning to go and eat at Norma. This London restaurant specialises in Sicilian cuisine. I look at their menu and it takes me straight back to sitting in an Osteria with a glass of Etna Rosso. The caponata, the red prawns, the cannoli. And, oh my, the pasta. No surprise there is Pasta Alla Norma on their menu. They are called Norma after all.
Pasta Alla Norma
So off I go to the bookshelves and out comes Locatelli’s “Made In Sicily”. The first recipe in his pasta section is “Reginette alla Norma”. Now I don’t have any reginette (a wide ribbon pasta with wavy edges, if you were wondering). But I have got linguine. I am making do.
I also don’t have any fresh tomatoes. But I have tinned. Yes, don’t worry, this is not about to turn into the blog on things you can do with chopped tomatoes. Except, trust me, this is a pretty good thing to do with chopped tomatoes!
In the end I decide to simplify Locatelli’s recipe. He starts by saying the aubergines should be salted for two hours. I’ve left it a bit late in the day for that. And I’m not sure I can be bothered with deep frying again just yet…
So here’s my recipe, inspired by Locatelli’s recipe. Inspired by Ottolenghi’s words. Inspired by Norma. But mainly inspired by my love of pasta.
Nothing lifts my spirits quite like a comforting bowl of pasta. So I’m keeping positive and looking to the future. One day soon I’ll be eating this dish at Norma. But first lets get to that seven-minute mark.
Pasta Alla Norma
- 1 large aubergine (or two small ones)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 sprig rosemary
- ½ tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 160 g linguine (or whatever pasta you like)
- 1 handful basil
- extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 200°C
- Cut the aubergine in half lengthways. Chop one half into chunks, sprinkle generously with salt, and leave in a colander to drain.
- Take the other half of the aubergine and put it skin side down on a piece of tin foil. Cut into the flesh in a criss cross pattern. Slice one garlic clove and stud the aubgine. Cut the rosemary into small sprigs and add these too. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle over olive oil. Wrap up in the foil to make a parcel. Place in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the auberinge is really soft.
- Finely chop the remaining garlic clove and add it to a frying pan with a drizzle of oil. When the garlic starts to colour add the chopped tomatoes. Allow to bubble away on a low heat until thick and pulpy.
- Once the aubergine from the oven in cool scrape out the flesh and mash with a fork. Add the mashed aubergine to the tomato sauce.
- Heat enough oil to cover the bottow of a frying pan on a high heat. Pat dry the aubergine that has been draining and fry until golden. But on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.
- Now bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add your pasta. Cook until al dente.
- Now add the cooked pasta, fried auberigne, and a spoonful of the pasta water to the sauce and let it all cook together for a couple of minutes. Tear in some basil and serve.