Pasta alla Norma (Eggplant Pasta)

By Alexandra Caspero on July 17, 2023

Pasta alla Norma is a Sicilian pasta recipe featuring tender roasted eggplant, homemade tomato sauce and ricotta salata. A healthier take on the traditional fried eggplant version. A hearty vegetarian dinner for summer!

If you love eggplant, you are going to love this Pasta alla Norma recipe. It’s the best of summer– featuring tender toasted eggplant cubes in a homemade tomato sauce with plenty of basil.

Traditional pasta alla norma is made by pan-frying the eggplant cubes– which is delicious, but also involves at least a cup of oil. While I have no problem with enjoying pan-fried foods occasionally, I wanted to create a eggplant pasta that still had the traditional taste, but with less fat.

Enter this version. The eggplant is roasted until creamy and tender and then tossed with the pasta. It still has a delicious, tender mouthfeel but with a fraction of the oil.

You are going to love this recipe. Here’s how to make it.

Pasta With Eggplant And Tomato
Close Up Eggplant Pasta

Pasta alla Norma Ingredients

Even though this recipe is Italian, I prefer Japanese eggplant. They are smaller and, therefore, more compact with flavor. We are currently growing eggplant in our garden, but any variety will work in a pinch.

In addition to the eggplant, you’ll need:

  • Olive oil
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Garlic
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Tomato Paste
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Pasta of choice
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Ricotta Salata

Since the ingredient list is short, you’ll want to choose ingredients that taste great on their own. That means the best-canned tomatoes you can afford. While I typically buy the store brand of most foods, there is a difference taste-wise between San Marzano tomatoes — at least, in my opinion. An extra dollar or so really does make a difference. That said, use what you can.

The same goes for pasta. I love bronze-dried pasta and usually stock up when they are on sale as dried pasta tends to stay good for a long time.

Classic pasta all norma uses ricotta salata at the end, which is a salty, creamy cheese that pairs so well with the creamy eggplant. I recommend seeking it out if you can find it.

If you cannot find ricotta salata, then you can substitute feta cheese or grated parmesan or pecorino romano. Whole Foods carries a vegetarian parmesan cheese that I use and really like.

For my dairy-free and vegan friends, I recommend using the feta from Violife or homemade vegan parmesan cheese. While you can technically skip the cheese altogether, it rounds out the dish nicely.

Two Bowls With Eggplant Pasta

How to Make Pasta alla Norma

Roast the Eggplant

Toss the eggplant with olive oil, red pepper flakes and salt until it’s well coated. Place on a baking sheet and roast until very tender, while slightly caramelized on the outside. Set aside. Try not to eat all of the eggplant as it comes out of the oven this way– it’s so good! Roasted Eggplant

Make the sauce

Make a simple tomato sauce by sauteeing the garlic, then adding in your canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Using the back of a wooden spoon, press the whole tomatoes until they break apart, almost melting into the sauce. You can keep as much texture as you’d like here. Simmer until thick and jammy. Tomato Sauce

Finish the dish

Cook the noodles, reserving the pasta water. Add the noodles to the sauce and a splash of pasta water and toss together until combined. If the sauce is too thick, add in a splash of pasta water. Add the eggplant and plenty of basil and toss to combine. Serve and garnish with ricotta salata.

Tips for Success

The eggplant texture is key to this dish. It should be tender enough that it’s creamy inside but not too tender to fall apart completely when tossed with the pasta. Check your eggplant after about 30 minutes in the oven. Make sure not to cut the eggplant too small, or else the cubes will fall apart in the oven. You can do strips or chunks.

Because you want the eggplant to shine, add it right before serving. You can also plate the pasta with the red sauce and then add the eggplant and ricotta salata on top before serving. Tossing the eggplant too far in advance of the pasta will make it soggy and lose the texture you want.

The balance of salt is key to this dish– especially if adding on salty ricotta salata at the end. You want each layer to be salted enough but not overly so that it turns into a salty mess when combined. I would start with the listed suggestions of salt, but take note if you are sensitive to salt or are used to less salty foods. You’ll likely want to start with less salt and add from there.

Close Up Pasta Alla Norma

What to Serve with Pasta alla Norma

We love this one alongside a simple green salad tossed with my Italian dressing. Growing up in an Italian household, we ate a simple green salad every single night with dinner, and it’s become a habit that I always eat a salad alongside pasta!

More Eggplant Recipes

More Summer Pasta Dishes

If you try this recipe, make sure to come back to leave a rating and a comment. Your feedback helps other readers, and seeing you make my recipes makes my day!

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Bowl With Eggplant Pasta

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Bowl With Eggplant Pasta

Pasta alla Norma

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: dinner, pasta, summer
  • Method: stove top, oven
  • Cuisine: American, Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Sicilian pasta recipe featuring tender roasted eggplant, homemade tomato sauce and ricotta salata. A healthier take on the traditional fried eggplant version. A hearty vegetarian dinner for summer!


  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: dinner, pasta, summer
  • Method: stove top, oven
  • Cuisine: American, Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: dinner, pasta, summer
  • Method: stove top, oven
  • Cuisine: American, Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes (San Marzano preferred)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 16 ounces rigatoni, penne or spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup grated ricotta salata or parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss the eggplant with 1/4 cup olive oil, red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes, tossing occasionally until eggplant is very tender. Remove and set aside.
  3. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in the tomatoes, tomato paste, and oregano. Cook, using the back of a wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. The sauce should be thick and jammy.
  4. While the sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until just al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
  5. Add the pasta to the tomato sauce and a splash of the pasta water, tossing until well combined. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more pasta water to thin. Add in the cooked eggplant and fresh basil and toss again.
  6. Divide into bowls and top with the grated cheese.

Notes

You need olive oil to create the perfect eggplant– slightly golden on the outside and creamy on the inside. I don’t recommend trying to reduce it.

Ricotta salata is traditional in this recipe; the salty notes pair perfectly with the creamy eggplant. If you can’t find ricotta salata, use parmesan cheese.

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Chef, and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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