Pasta alla Norma Recipe

  • by Nonna Box March 21, 2020
  • |
  • Last Updated on June 26, 2020
Pasta alla norma recipe

One of the most well-loved Sicilian pasta dishes has a strange nickname, Norma.

Why is it called Pasta alla Norma?

No, it’s not named for an old Italian nonna, rather it’s believed to have been renamed after one of the tragic operas by Vincenzo Bellini with the same name.

They say that a Catanian (someone from Catania, in Sicily) playwright, Nino Matroglio, exclaimed that the pasta dish was as much a masterpiece as the famous opera.

While the name Pasta alla Norma may be a bit odd, the flavors are not. The simpler name, Pasta alle melanzane e pomodoro tells you what you’re actually working with in the dish.

Tying together fresh Italian tomatoes, creamy and savory eggplant, and salty ricotta you end up with a dish that is perfect for any warm summer evening, or even to help you imagine one during the cold winter.

Pasta alla Norma Variations

At it’s base, this dish is a simple tomato sauce, tossed with a short pasta (macaroni, penne, etc) and cooked eggplant.

Some people roast the eggplant, giving it an earthier flavor, but the traditional recipes stick to frying them in olive oil.

If  you do want to reduce the calorie count of the dish, instead of frying you can grill the eggplant slices, though it won’t be quite the same.

You also find a great deal of creativity with this dish when you leave Sicily, even to the point of including shrimp and other vegetables. This is not, by any means, necessary for the enjoyment of the dish.

As with most Southern Italian cuisine, simple is best. Just make sure you’ve found high quality ingredients and it is hard to go wrong.

How to Prepare the Eggplant

Most of us have bad memories from some eggplant dish that was gummy and bitter. Luckily, this is easy to avoid with a little extra preparation.

We recommend cutting up your eggplants according to the recipe, and then laying them out with a sprinkle of coarse salt for at least half an hour. This let’s them drain and significantly reduces the presence of any bitter flavors. Rinse off the eggplant and then pat dry so it’s ready for cooking (you want to avoid placing wet eggplant into oil to prevent oil splatters).

Traditional Italian dish pasta alla norma

Pasta alla norma recipe

Pasta alla Norma

This recipe combines the flavors of Sicily: eggplant, tomato and ricotta salata. It's a delicious summery dish, which can be enjoyed paired with a Southern Italian white wine. Enjoy!
4.59 from 12 votes
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Course: Pasta
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 777kcal
Author: Nonna Box


  • 1 lb macaroni ziti, or penne
  • 1 lb eggplant round and firm
  • ½ to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ to 1 cup ricotta salata grated salted ricotta, to preference
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1 ½ lb tomatoes chopped. canned are fine if fresh roma aren’t available
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tablespoon fresh
  • ½ cup basil leaves


  • Slice the eggplant into ½ inch thick slices and then set to drain as described above (sprinkle with salt, then rinse and pat dry after 20-30 minutes).
  • Once your eggplant has drained and been patted dry, add olive oil to a large pan over high heat.
  • Add the eggplant to the pan and toss to coat with oil evenly and fry the eggplant (you will likely need to cook the eggplant in batches).
  • Sprinkle a pinch of oregano on the eggplant as it cooks.
  • Cook until all sides of the eggplant are golden, then remove to a plate and cook the next batch (do not drain on paper towels).
  • When the last batch is golden, add all cooked eggplant back to the pan along with a little more olive oil and the garlic. Turn the heat to medium.
  • Once the garlic is cooked, add the tomatoes. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and add salt as necessary.
  • Start a pot of boiling water for the pasta. Cook according to pasta instructions until al dente then drain the pasta and reserve a cup of pasta water.
  • Tear up half of the basil and stir into the eggplant and tomato sauce, then pour over the pasta and toss.
  • Add a little of the reserved pasta water, if necessary, to get the sauce to evenly coat the pasta.
  • Plate the sauced pasta and sprinkle with the grated ricotta salata to taste, then garnish with fresh basil leaves.


  • If grilling the eggplant, we recommend adding to the tomatoes after they have been cooking for a few minutes to prevent the eggplant breaking down too much.
  • Another alternative is roasting the eggplant by cutting it in cubes, tossing in olive oil, sprinkling with salt and then roasting at 400° F until tender and golden brown. This would be added to the dish at the same time as the fried eggplant.
  • Dried red chili can also be added with the garlic if you like a little bite to the dish and remains a traditional option.
  • For a faster version of the dish, start with oil and garlic, and then add cubed eggplant and tomatoes at the same time. This loses some of the flavor but can be ready in just about the time it takes to boil the pasta.
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Wine Pairing

This is a bright and summery pasta dish, full of acidic sweet tomatoes and creamy eggplant. It goes very well with Southern Italian white wines, namely Falanghina and Greco di Tufo, or any unoaked Sicilian white you might find; an aromatic Sauvignon Blanc can be a great choice.

If you absolutely must have red wine, take a pass on the Chianti and instead grab a Sicilian red from the slopes of Mount Etna. You’ll find these under the Etna Rossa name, and they have a richness that will go nicely with the eggplant while having the acidity to stand up to the tomato sauce. Plus, it’s a wine from the region where the dish was created, that’s never a bad thing.


Other Southern Italian Pasta dishes:


One Response to “Pasta alla Norma Recipe”

  1. Ravin kumar says:

    Wow, this is such a great idea! Definitely gonna try them! Such a creative idea! This looks is so delicious. Thanks for sharing your information.

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