I made pasta alla Norma a couple of weeks ago and a Summer would never be complete without having it at least once.
I wrote extensively about this recipe in a previous post which I would invite you to read, if only because I talk about its provenance and history as well as the steps to making it.
The main difference between the way I cooked it then and more recently is that I salted the aubergines before frying them this time. A little more work, yes, but worth it.
Another difference is that I used onions instead of garlic to make up the tomato sauce.
What can never be changed is the type of oil with which to fry the slices of aubergine – only extra virgin olive oil can be used for this dish.
Once the pasta was on the boil, it was time to ready the sauce into welcoming it within the confines of a large saucepan. I began by throwing in some fresh basil and a little olive oil.
I then poured the sauce in and turned the heat on.
I also grated some Ricotta Salata cheese. This is a ricotta that has been salted and allowed to age and dry off. Sorry, I didn’t take a photo.
If you look closely, you can see some white ‘bits’ in amongst the pasta – that is the ricotta salata. What I did was drain the pasta directly into the saucepan add a little of the cooking water and finish off cooking the pasta there. Only afterwards did I add the fried aubergine slices (so as not to damage them) and, lastly, the roughly grated ricotta salata – together with extra basil. I was having a bit of a basil frenzy.
It was a casual outdoor dinner at a friend’s house and she was okay about bringing the pasta to the table in the saucepan.
Once we had plated up, everyone was free to add more ricotta salata to their plate.
Oh … sigh … how I love al fresco meals and Summer in general.
P.S. It has been the weirdest late July/August ever around here in the Castelli Romani – we’ve had nothing but buckets of rain late in the afternoon. Not my idea of Summer evenings at all. But, still, a Pasta alla Normal is an uber-summery pasta dish and is best enjoyed this time of year.