It’s a Tuesday night and the workday was long and the sunlight was short and like just about everyone else in Italy, the pandemic curfew has us in for the night.
But we’re healthy and we have a roof over our heads and a refrigerator full of delicious goat cheese so we’ve got no complaints either.
The cheese is from Monte Jugo, a favorite cheese producer near our lake house in Montefiascone. We stocked up last weekend.
I’m using it tonight to make a slightly lighter variation of the Sicilian dish, pasta alla norma, which is made with eggplant, tomatoes, basil, and cheese.
Pasta alla norma is from the Sicilian city of Catania where norma allegedly means marvel in Catanese. There are a few variations to the tale that explains how the pasta wound up with this label, but regardless who said it, they were clearly right. The dish is marvelous.
The traditional version uses fried eggplant slices and ricotta salata, a crumbly sheep’s milk cheese from Sicily. Feta is a common and good replacement, but I’m using a crumbly goat cheese instead and sautéing the eggplant in small cubes rather than frying it in slices.
Most dry pasta shapes will work. While spaghetti is traditional in pasta alla norma, I’ll likely go with something short like penne.
Canned tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and cheese
- 1 small can of tomatoes, whole, peeled, or purée
- 1 eggplant, unpeeled and cut into small cubes
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- A pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1 onion, diced
- ½ cup of crumbly cheese like feta
- Basil leaves
- Olive oil
- Dry pasta
- Cook the eggplant in a non-stick skillet over medium heat without oil until it wilts and then remove from the pan. Stir occasionally to keep the eggplant from sticking.
- Cook the garlic and red pepper flakes in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until golden and then discard (or keep if you like).
- Add the onion and a couple of leaves of basil and cook until the onions are soft and translucent.
- Add the eggplant and cook through.
- Add the canned tomatoes, season with salt or colatura di alici (Italian anchovy sauce), and simmer over medium-low heat until the sauce is thick.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta, making sure to save some of the pasta water.
- Drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the tomatoes and toss.
- Cook over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds while tossing.
- Add half the cheese and toss. Add more pasta water if needed.
- Plate and top with more cheese and a couple of basil leaves and serve.