This delicious pasta alla norma recipe is a hearty pasta with eggplant and tomato sauce - perfect for meatless Mondays!
Pasta alla Norma is a classic Sicilian dish of pasta with an eggplant, tomato and basil sauce.
This is one of my favourite vegetarian dishes to serve up for the family. It is comforting, full of delicious flavours and immensely satisfying.
Even the most dedicated meat lover will enjoy this recipe.
This classic pasta with eggplant sauce recipe uses the following ingredients:
- Eggplant / Aubergine - look for firm eggplants with a nice shiny skin
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Cayenne pepper
- Canned chopped tomatoes
- Dried oregano
- Sugar - sugar is added to tomato sauce to reduce the acidity and produce a more rounded sauce.
- Dried chilli flakes - aka red pepper flakes. This helps bring out the flavour of the tomatoes, it shouldn't make the dish too spicy but feel free to skip if you prefer.
- Fresh basil - the flavours of the fresh basil are wonderful in this dish, don't skip it!
- Pecorino romano - traditionally pasta alla norma uses aged ricotta salata, however it is not always so easy to find and so I usually substitute with pecorino romano, which I usually have in my fridge. You could also substitute with grana padano or parmesan if that is all you have.
- Pasta - my favourite pasta for pasta alla norma is spaghetti but you can also use penne, rigatoni, bucatini - whatever you like!
Fried vs Roasted Eggplant
A lot of pasta alla norma recipes use fried eggplant. However I prefer to use roasted eggplant for a few reasons.
Firstly, roasting the eggplant really intensifies the flavour. It doesn't quite have the delicious smokiness of grilled eggplant but I still prefer it to fried.
Also roasting eggplant is easier, healthier AND less messy than frying it. Win, win, win.
How to make Pasta alla Norma
Step One: Roast the eggplant
To make this delicious aubergine pasta dish, you start by roasting the eggplant:
Cut it into ½ inch thick slices - depending on the size of the eggplant, you may want to cut into semi-circles or even quarter-circles.
Put the eggplant slices into a large bowl and toss them with the olive oil, cayenne pepper and some salt and pepper.
Now lay them out onto a couple of roasting tins or baking trays and roast them in the oven for around 30 minutes, until they are a beautiful dark golden brown colour. Your kitchen will smell amazing 🙂
Step Two: Make the tomato sauce
Next heat some oil in a pan and fry the garlic til soft. Add in the tomatoes, chilli flakes, sugar and oregano and cook for around 20 minutes, until the sauce is thickened. Then stir in the eggplant.
Step Three: Cook the pasta
Meanwhile, you can cook the pasta. Once it is cooked, reserve a cup of the cooking water, in case you want to loosen up the sauce.
Step Four: Serve
Now stir the pasta through the sauce, adding a little of the pasta cooking water if it is a little thick.
Finally stir in the grated pecorino and chopped basil and serve.
FAQs and Top Tips
To freeze this dish, it is better to freeze the sauce before you add the pasta, cheese and basil to it. If you know you want to freeze some of the sauce, just portion it off before you add these items and you can add them after it is reheated and ready to serve.
You can roast the eggplant ahead of time and keep in the fridge, and/or you can also make the sauce ahead of time. It reheats really well, and then you just need to cook the pasta and add the cheese and basil when you are ready to serve it.
Adding sugar to tomato sauce helps to reduce any acidity in the tomatoes and produce a more rounded flavour to the sauce. If you have nice sweet tomatoes then you may not need the sugar.
A lot of older eggplant recipes suggest that you salt the eggplant before cooking it. This is to reduce the bitterness. However nowadays eggplants do not tend to be bitter and therefore you no longer need to do this step.
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Pasta alla Norma
- 2 large eggplants approx 750g or 1.5 lbs
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 x 400g 14oz cans chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes red pepper flakes
- 40 g pecorino romano grated
- 15 g or a small handful of fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 500 g pasta I prefer spaghetti but you can choose any pasta - penne and rigatoni work well too
To roast the eggplants
- Pre-heat the oven to 200 C / 400 F.
- Cut the eggplant into half lengthways, then slice into ½ inch thick slices.
- Place the eggplant slices into a large bowl and toss with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, the cayenne pepper and a generous seasoning of salt & pepper.
- Lay the eggplant slices out onto two roasting tins or baking trays and roast in the oven for around 30 minutes, until they are a dark golden brown in colour.
- Set aside until needed.
To make the sauce
- Heat the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic and cook over a medium heat until soft - around 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, sugar, oregano and chilli flakes. Cook over a medium heat for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened.
- Meanwhile, put a pan of water on to boil for the pasta and cook as per the packet instructions.
- When the sauce is thickened, add the eggplant and stir to mix well.
- When the pasta is cooked, reserve a cup of the cooking water before draining.
- Add the drained pasta to the tomato and eggplant sauce and stir to combine. If it is too thick, add a little of the pasta water.
- Stir in the grated pecorino and chopped basil and serve.