Hello!! It’s been a while. While I’ve missed blogging I needed to take a break for a bit. Without boring you all too much the last few months have been strange and a bit stressful so I decided to give myself some time off. But I had a great Christmas and lots of lovely family time so I’m not complaining.
I was flicking through a couple of new cookbooks that I bought in the sales, Simple from Yotam Ottolenghi and Slow from Gizzi Erskine. There is a recipe for Pasta Alla Norma in Simple, pasta with a rich aubergine and tomato sauce, topped with ricotta salata. I realised that I make a similar dish but didn’t really have a name for it. Now I do. This is a meat free dish but is incredibly moreish. The fried aubergines make it so filling and meat lovers won’t be left wanting. This is more of a Summer meal but I love a quick and tasty pasta dish at any time of year. This honestly takes about 30 minutes from start to finish.
Useful tips & links:
- I never claim to make ‘authentic’ recipes. These are just recipes made the way I like them and with ingredients that I can get easily enough. When I read one recipe that said “If you can’t get ricotta salata don’t bother making it”. That really got my back up, why shouldn’t you make it and use the closest cheese you can get hold of?! Anyway, it’s not that easy to get, I eventually got some in Delitaly in Cork. If you cannot get it, you can use pecorino instead.
- Have a look at this article to explain more about ricotta salata and suggested uses for it. It is very different to fresh ricotta, it is a firm more mature cheese.
- Traditionally fresh tomatoes would be used for this but as it is hard to get Mediterranean quality tomatoes here, I always use tinned. Most tinned tomatoes will need a pinch of sugar added to take away the sharp flavour.
- Many aubergine recipes suggest salting them first to reduce bitterness. It is generally accepted this is no longer necessary and I don’t do this, but if you want to, then sprinkle the diced aubergines with salt and let them sit for 30 minutes. Pat them dry before frying.
- For the pasta, I prefer a short thick dried pasta for it such as penne or the rigatoni used here. You can use any pasta you like, many recipes use spaghetti.
- This meat free recipe is vegetarian, just make sure the cheese you use is suitable.
- Have a look at Michelle’s Harissa Roasted Vegetable Pasta from The Last Food Blog for more ideas.
- I love the combination of tomato and aubergine, seen in this recipe for Zaalouk or Moroccan Aubergine and Tomato Salad.
Pasta Alla Norma
Serves 2 (scales up easily)
- Olive Oil
- 1 large aubergine (eggplant)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
- 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- A pinch of sugar
- A dash of red wine or sherry vinegar
- 20g bunch of fresh basil
- 25g of freshly grated ricotta salata or pecorino cheese
- 200g of dried pasta such as rigatoni or penne
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a wide pan over a medium-high heat. Dice the aubergine into 1-1½cm cubes and fry them in the oil with a little salt until soft and golden all over. This will only take a few minutes so keep an eye on them.
- When the aubergine is cooked add a little more oil as the aubergine will have absorbed what you already added. Add in the garlic, oregano and chilli flakes and fry gently for another minute.
- Pour in the tin of tomatoes, sugar and vinegar and season with a little pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer and then turn down the heat to low. Allow the sauce to cook for 20 minutes so that the tomatoes break down and it thickens.
- When the sauce is almost cooked, boil your pasta as per packet instructions.
- Chop most of the basil and add it to the sauce to wilt a bit. Taste the sauce for seasoning and adjust as needed, remember you will be adding salty cheese on top.
- Drain the pasta when it is cooked, reserving a splash of the water.
- Pour a tablespoon of the pasta water into the sauce to help it adhere to the pasta. Then stir through the pasta until it is completely combined.
- Serve immediately with a green salad, some crusty white bread and a balsamic and olive oil dip.