Eggplant, pasta, and Ricotta Salata.
With eggplant, tomatoes, a generous amount of ricotta salata, and some basil, this beautiful Italian dish comes together in no time.
Do not be surprised if this dish will become your go-to dinner. The flavors are out of this world.
Italy is rich in recipes. Each region has its specialty and prides itself on the recipes they share with the world.
The recipe I am sharing today is from a dear friend, Luis. He and I have been friends since childhood. He lives in Italy, more specifically in the Abruzzi region.
This pasta with eggplant is an adaptation from Pasta alla Norma. A southern Italy, Sicily dish.
One of the significant differences is that with this recipe, I do not deep fry the eggplant, but sautéing them and add the fresh tomatoes and enjoy a short boil.
Making this dish lighter by not deep frying the eggplant and cutting down the cooking process too, which I always enjoy, and I am sure you do too.
You will find crushed red peppers on the pasta alla Norma dish. Sicilian cooking has the tendency to use “peperoncino” or red pepper.
Of course, if you like a kick in your pasta, by all means, add some crushed red pepper to it.
In this Article
- Origins of “Alla Norma”
- What is Ricotta Salata?
- Ricotta Salata substitute.
- Eggplant used to make this pasta with eggplant
- A quick note about the tomatoes
- Here are a few helpful tips for the ingredients needed to make this delicious pasta with eggplant or pasta alla Norma
- Equipment needed
- Cooking tips and step-by-step instructions to achieve this excellent recipe of eggplant
- Storage instructions
- If you enjoyed this recipe for Eggplant, Pasta, and Ricotta Salata, check out these flavorful recipes:
- Eggplant, Pasta and Ricotta Salata
Origins of “Alla Norma”
Norma is the name of a beautiful opera composed by the Sicilian Vincenzo Bellini.
This pasta made with eggplant, a beloved vegetable of Sicily, was named in honor of the opera.
What is Ricotta Salata?
An Italian cheese made from sheep milk. Milk is richer in fat content and rich in protein.
The milk, which is pressed and salted, is let to be rested for up to 90 days. The salt removes up to 50% of the water content, giving us a more complex and harder texture cheese that can be grated.
A specialty of Southern Italy.
Ricotta salata can be enjoyed over pasta or sliced and enjoyed as is.
Ricotta Salata substitute.
If you cannot find ricotta salata, substitute with feta, with is very similar or Pecorino Romano.
Eggplant used to make this pasta with eggplant
I love quick dishes, and to make this dish faster without compromising the flavor, I am using small eggplants or Japanese eggplant.
Why, you may ask? Simple. I do not need to salt them to draw out excess moisture, so the eggplant can have a more robust flavor and a softer texture.
This process can take up to an hour, and by using the Japanese eggplant, which tastes the same, you will eliminate the salting hour-long process.
A quick note about the tomatoes
Use fresh tomatoes anytime you can. By reading the instruction below, you will notice that I am blanching, or par-boiling, the tomatoes with an “x” scored on the bottom of the tomato.
This will facilitate removing the skin of the tomato easier.
This will give a smoother and more uniform texture to your sauce. The tomato skins are tough and harder to chew, and it will also remove the fitter flavor.
Here are a few helpful tips for the ingredients needed to make this delicious pasta with eggplant or pasta alla Norma
This is a quick introduction, and as you can see, the list of ingredients is short and includes essentials you may already have in your pantry. Please read the recipe for complete instructions.
Tomatoes: Roma tomatoes would be idyllic, but any perfectly ripe tomato will do just fine too. Ensure that they are not too mature or will fall apart during the blanching process.
Eggplant: Slender and free of any bruising. The skin should be shiny and uniform.
Onion: Yellow or white onion, whichever you have on hand, will work beautifully.
Penne or farfalle pasta: Two of my favorite pasta shapes. Rigatoni, fettuccine, or spaghetti are delicious too. Use what you already have in your pantry. I love the penne as the sauce will go inside the tubular part, and you will enjoy more sauce when you bite into it.
Ricotta Salata: Buy the chunk and grate it to keep it fresh and from drying out. You can use feta or Pecorino Romano, which have the same balance of saltiness and nutty flavor.
I only recommend what I use and love.
Large pot for the pasta as well as for blanching the tomatoes to remove the skin.
Food Mill or potato masher: You want to enjoy the tomatoes more as a sauce than chunks. A food mill will give you that consistency. You are trying to get all the juices out and keep some of the pulp into chunks. When my son was growing up, I used the food mill constantly to pass thru all the vegetables that he did not want to see on his dish. A great investment.
Large skillet: Large enough to hold your tomatoes with the eggplant as well as the pasta for the last step of your cooking.
Pasta bowls: I am in love and obsessed with them as they hold the pasta better, and we get to enjoy all the sauce as the borders allow us to do so.
Cooking tips and step-by-step instructions to achieve this excellent recipe of eggplant
This recipe is super easy to make, and here are a few suggestions to ensure great success while preparing it.
- I used the smaller eggplants and diced them to about 1″ squares. I used them immediately and did not let them sit covered with salt for one hour.
- Scored a large X on the bottom of the tomatoes and blanched them in hot water for a couple of minutes. You do not want to cook, just the skin to come off.
- Run under cold water the tomatoes and remove the skin. It should come off like a glove.
- While the pasta water is coming to a boil and I start cooking my penne pasta, I am sautéing the onions until translucent in a large skillet.
- Add the small eggplant squares to the onion and cook for a few minutes.
- I am adding tomatoes and some cooking water to prevent it from drying out.
- Cook the pasta according to the manufacturer’s instructions, minus two minutes. You want your pasta to be al dente, and it will continue cooking once added to the eggplant. Reserve a cup of pasta boiling water.
- Drain the pasta and add it to the eggplant-tomato mixture. Stir well.
Serve on large pasta bowls and be very generous with the ricotta salata cheese sprinkled over it.
Store leftover fried shrimp in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.
If you enjoyed this recipe for Eggplant, Pasta, and Ricotta Salata, check out these flavorful recipes:
Equipment used to make this delicious eggplant pasta
Eggplant, Pasta and Ricotta Salata
- 5 tomatoes
- 5 eggplants, cut into 1-inch dices
- ½ large onion, finely chopped
- olive oil
- 1 pound pasta, penne or farfalle
- ½ cup ricotta salata, finely grated
- In a large pot of boiling water add the tomatoes that you will have gently scored a X on the bottom and a fine line all around the middle. Blanch for a couple of minutes until you will see the skin pulling away from the tomato meat. Drain and rinse under cold water. Remove the skin and pass the tomatoes thru a food mill or crush with a potato masher. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat add the olive oil and cook the finely chopped onion until they become translucent.
- Add the eggplant to the onion and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the tomato and some water (1/4 cup) to continue the cooking process. Season lightly with salt, very little.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to packaging instruction and drain 2 minutes prior to being al dente. Reserve cooking water.
- Add the pasta to the eggplant tomato sauce and coat well with the sauce Add some of the cooking water if too dry.
- Serve the pasta into a bowl and sprinkle a generous amount of ricotta salata over it.
- Blanch for a couple of minutes until you will see the skin pulling away from the tomato meat. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- Remove the skin and pass the tomatoes thru a food mill or crush with a potato masher. Set aside.
Giangi’s Kitchen provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as a registered dietician does not calculate them.
Did you make this?
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Originally published on August 20, 2020. Updated on July 1, 2023.