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Pasta alla norma

Photo - Robert Linton/

Sunshine flavours in a simple dish

This classic Sicilian vegetarian pasta celebrates the best of late summer’s vegetable harvest. 

The traditional topping is not parmesan, but a good firm salty ricotta salata. If you can’t find it use a creamy fetta instead. Sicilians would never roast the eggplant for this dish, and you don’t have to either. Fry it for extra richness, or roast to reduce the fat content of the finished dish – and leave room for gelato!


What you need:

1 large eggplant

2 cloves garlic

1 400g tinned crushed tomatoes

dried chilli, to taste

olive oil

400g penne or spiral pasta

Ricotta salata or fetta

Fresh basil


What to do:

Heat the oven to 200. Slice the eggplant about 1 cm thick slices. Drizzle or spray with olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes or until soft.

Meanwhile, fry the garlic in a slurp of olive oil until fragrant, then add the tomatoes, with a half a can of water as well. Add snipped dried chilli to taste. Bring the sauce to the boil, then turn to a simmer to allow the flavours to come together.

When the eggplant is cooked, chop the slices into bite-size pieces, and add to the sauce.

Cook pasta in plenty of boiling salted water and one minute before it is cooked, drain and add to the sauce to finish cooking.

Serve the pasta topped plenty of fresh basil leaves and crumbled ricotta salata or fetta.

Serves 4


3 more ways with eggplant

Baba ganoush

Pierce the skin of an eggplant with a sharp knife. Cook on a hot barbecue grill, turning often, until completely black and soft. Cool, then peel, allowing the juices to drain away. Whizz the flesh in a food processor, with a dessertspoon each of tahini, olive oil and lemon juice. Add a quarter teaspoon each of salt, cumin (and smoked paprika if you like). Whizz til smooth then check and adjust flavourings.


Baba ganoush. Photo - Trevor Wood/


Steamed eggplant with miso topping

Steam 3 halved Japanese eggplant or 1 large eggplant cut into batons, for about 15 minutes, until completely soft. Meanwhile, fry minced ginger and garlic in peanut oil until fragrant then add 150g pork mince and fry until golden brown. Add a heaped tablespoon of red miso and a good grind of white pepper. Heat through, then add a teaspoon of sesame oil. Serve the eggplant topped with the sauce and roasted sesame seeds.


Eggplant and tomato salad

Char an eggplant as for baba ganoush. Mix the chopped flesh with halved cherry tomatoes, a slurp of olive oil, dash of pomegranate molasses and plenty of fresh chopped parsley.



Text:Robin Powell

About this article

Author: Robin Powell