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Pasta alla Norma

(Serves 6)
Pasta alla Norma
Pasta alla Norma
Pasta alla Norma is a classic pasta dish from Sicily.  It's made with penne pasta combined with fried eggplant, onions, garlic, tomatoes and basil, and topped with ricotta salata.  It is supposedly named for the opera Norma by Catania-born Vincenzo Bellini.

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and pepper
1 pound penne or rigatoni pasta

1/2 cup ricotta salata or pecorino cheese, shredded
Olive oil for dizzling


Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add eggplant; saute for 8-10 minutes, until the eggplant is golden brown on all sides.  Transfer the eggplant to a paper-towel lined plate.

Add the remaining olive oil to the skillet.
Add the onion and red pepper flakes;saute for 2-3 minutes until the onions start to turn brown.  Add the garlic and oregano; cook for 30 seconds.
Add the tomatoes and basil; season with salt and pepper.
Bring to a simmer and add the eggplant cubes. Cook for 10 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta in boiling salted water.
Drain, reserving some of the pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss.  Add some of the pasta water if the sauce is too thick.  Transfer to a serving dish.  Top with shredded ricotta salata or pecorino and drizzle with a little olive oil
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