Thursday, February 12, 2009

Pasta alla Norma (Eggplant Pasta): Easy and Delicious

Some dishes just are complicated for complication sake. Others are complicated because there seems to be too many steps -but can be simplified if you break the components down. One such dish is Pasta Norma, which is essentially a baked pasta dish that uses eggplants, marinara sauce you have around, and delicious mozzarella cheese. Daughters love eggplant and anything with melted cheese and they especially love it when I do my goofy Italian accented "Pasta alla Norma" cry. It's a great dish, all in one, and it is so comforting and satisfying on these cold days.

I read through quite a few recipes, before sort of combining Jamie Oliver's concept with one I found on epicurious.com. Many of the recipes want breading, and a complicated eggplant preparation technique - I decided to favor the simplest preparation of eggplant -cubing, salting, frying, and sprinkling with oregano, a quick toss of cooked with my homemade marinara (which I always have extra frozen in the fridge) and then layering of really delicious burrata (fresh mozarella with a cream center...YUM) on top. The result was magnificent and not that hard to make.

Pasta alla Norma
Serves 6-8

2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 medium onion, chopped

2 1/2 cups marinara sauce (homemade or use 24 to 26 ounce bottled sauce)

1 pound dried rigatoni
or penne pasta
1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes


Toss eggplant with 2 teaspoon salt in a colander. Drain 30 minutes. Rinse, then squeeze out excess liquid and pat dry.

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Fry eggplant in 3 batches, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Spinkle and toss warm eggplant with dried oregano.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons oil from skillet, then sauté onion with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper until golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in sauce and eggplant and simmer 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook rigatoni in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 6 quart water) until al dente, then drain. (basically cook pasta for 1 minute less than you would normally in order that it doesn't turn into total mush during baking.) Stir together pasta, sauce, and half of mozzarella in pot. Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Bake until cheese is melted and golden in spots, about 45 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

**An additional note for those whose family are "sauce lovers" - the tomato sauce does get absorbed into the pasta, so those who like things saucy may complain about the lack of sauce - just have on the side extra marinara sauce.

Printable recipe

5 comments:

Jacqueline Renee said...

Okay, I am super super lazy, but I liked the sound of this... after two attempts, I now have an even simpler method...
Make your homemade sauce as per normal, but add eggplant...
then mix that sauce with the pasta and the cheese, and put more cheese on top, and bake...

For the truly truly lazy...

liz said...

yuummmmm....i'm going to have to definitely try this one next week.

Julie M. said...

I just had to share (cause I'm so excited!) I made this for dinner last night - very yummy. Today I heated it up for lunch and my 4 year old daughter said "what's that it smells good". Let me explain, Audrey is on a feeding tube and her oral intake is VERY LIMITED! She ate about 5 noodles (her first pasta ever)!!! So thank you thank you! We will definately be making this often!

Joanne Choi said...

Julie M - thanks for your comment! Hopefully your daughter really enjoyed her small delicious bites. It doesn't matter how small, or how little she eats, but really good food always feed more than the stomach...it feeds her spirit.

C. Hall said...

Made Pasta Alla Norma (Pasta with eggplant) tonight from this recipe!

Here are the yummy results!

http://i.imgur.com/VeRML.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/Or2Jo.jpg

I went ahead and sprinkled nuts on top and also used around 1/3 c. white wine when I sauteed the onions. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

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