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Pasta Alla Norma With Roasted Eggplant

Pasta Alla Norma With Roasted Eggplant is a quick, easy, flavorful, and satisfying Italian meatless dinner that will win over vegetarians and meat-eaters alike!

It’s eggplant season! And it’s the perfect time to make this lighter version of the classic Sicilian dish that has pasta and eggplant tossed with a quick homemade tomato sauce and topped with ricotta salata cheese and fresh basil.

I say lighter because, traditionally, Pasta Alla Norma is made with eggplant that has been fried…and, wow, eggplant sucks up all that oil like a sponge! This can also make it a little mushy.

By roasting it in the oven instead, we’re using only 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the eggplant holds its shape much better.

Plus, if you’re like me and aren’t the biggest fan of the splattering mess and subsequent clean-up that goes along with frying, you’ll find roasting much easier, and the clean-up is a breeze.

The homemade tomato sauce is my Quick and Easy Homemade Spaghetti Sauce, and it’ll be done by the time the eggplant comes out of the oven, so you’ll be ready to sit down to dinner in less than an hour!

And if you happen to be wondering how Pasta Alla Norma got its name, it’s actually thanks to the opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini, and there are 2 common stories.

The first is that the dish was created by a chef from Catania, Sicily, who made it to celebrate the debut of Bellini’s opera (he was also from Catania).

The second is that the playwright Nino Martoglio (also from Catania), after tasting the dish, exclaimed “This is a true Norma!” (well, the Italian translation of that phrase anyway) – a compliment comparing it to Bellini’s masterpiece.

All I know is that it’s incredibly delicious and a recipe that you’ll want to make again and again!

Pasta Alla Norma in a skillet with a wooden spoon with fresh basil and shredded cheese on the side

Ingredients you need:

Note: Ingredient amounts are in the recipe card below.

  • Eggplant
  • Olive oil
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Red wine (a drier variety such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir; see Note below for substitution)
  • Canned crushed tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Sugar
  • Dried basil
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried parsley
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Small rigatoni pasta
  • Ricotta salata cheese (or parmesan cheese)
  • Fresh basil

Note: If you don’t have or would rather not cook with wine, you can substitute beef broth and balsamic vinegar. It’s really yummy too!

Note: This video is just a brief overview of the steps. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe with detailed instructions.

Tips & Tidbits:

  • If you can, use smaller, younger eggplants. They tend to have fewer seeds, are less bitter, and are a bit firmer than the larger ones.
  • Eggplants with a round dimple on the bottom also tend to have fewer seeds than those with an oval-shaped dimple.
  • When selecting eggplants, look for tight, unblemished skin with no soft spots. They should also feel heavy for their size.
  • To me, salting the eggplant doesn’t make a difference in this recipe (especially if you use smaller eggplant), so I don’t do it. However, you certainly can if you prefer.
    • To salt the eggplant: place the cubes in a colander set in the sink or over a bowl to catch the water, sprinkle with salt, and toss to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse and dry very well (if wet, the eggplant will steam rather than roast).
  • Like a little spice? Add a pinch or two of crushed red pepper flakes to the sauce!
  • You can take a shortcut and substitute one jar (about 24 ounces) of your favorite marinara or spaghetti sauce.
  • I like rigatoni or other shorter-cut pasta such as penne, ziti, or mafalda for this recipe, but you can use any pasta you’d like.
  • Ricotta salata is classic in Pasta Alla Norma, but you can use parmesan instead.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. Reheat over medium-low heat in a covered pan on the stove (add a small amount of water if it has become a little dry), stirring occasionally. Or reheat it in the microwave.
top-down view of two bowls of Pasta Alla Norma with forks and a plate of garlic bread on the side

I always serve this up with some of my Homemade Garlic Bread to complete the meal (a must with any Italian pasta dish). A salad to start with or on the side would be awesome too!

And if you think you don’t like eggplant, I’m telling you, just try it in this dish. You might be very pleasantly surprised!

I hope you try this Pasta Alla Norma With Roasted Eggplant recipe and love it as much as I do. Thanks for visiting today!

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More Meatless Italian Dinner Recipes That You Might Like…

If you make this recipe, I’d love to know how it went! Please leave a star rating and comment below. Thanks!

Pasta Alla Norma with roasted eggplant in a white bowl with a fork on the side

Pasta Alla Norma With Roasted Eggplant

Pasta Alla Norma With Roasted Eggplant is a quick, easy, flavorful, and satisfying Italian meatless dinner that will win over vegetarians and meat-eaters alike!
Print Recipe Rate/Comment Pin Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 543
Author: Michelle / Now Cook This!

Ingredients

For the Roasted Eggplant:

  • 2 pounds eggplant, I use smaller eggplants, as they tend to have less seeds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup dry red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir (see note below for substitute)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste

For the Pasta:

  • 8 ounces small rigatoni, or any pasta you'd like

For the Toppings:

  • ½ cup freshly grated ricotta salata cheese, divided (parmesan cheese can be used instead)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, divided

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper, and put a pot of salted water on to boil for cooking the pasta.
  • Chop the eggplant into 1-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Toss with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Spread the eggplant cubes out onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, keeping as much space between the pieces of eggplant as possible.
  • Put the eggplant in the oven and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, turning the pieces over halfway through and rotating the pans between racks if needed, or until they are deep golden brown and tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  • While the eggplant is roasting, make the sauce and cook the pasta.
  • In a large skillet (I use a 12-inch skillet), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they have softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook, stirring, constantly, for another 30 seconds to 1 minute (be very careful not to burn the garlic, as it will become bitter).
  • Add the red wine, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, dried basil, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper; stir to combine.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  • While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta.
    Add the pasta to the boiling salted water and cook to al dente as per the package instructions. When it is finished cooking, save ½ cup of the water to use in the sauce, then drain.
  • Add the eggplant, pasta and reserved pasta water to the sauce and gently toss to combine.
  • Divide the pasta between four bowls. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons of the ricotta salata cheese and 1 tablespoon of the chopped fresh basil. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • The key to getting this dish done in about 40 minutes is overlapping the steps. Put the pasta water on to boil before you start prepping, so it’s ready when you are.Cook the sauce while the eggplant is roasting, and cook the pasta while the sauce is simmering. 
  • If you don’t have or would rather not cook with wine, you can use ½ cup beef broth and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar instead. It’s really yummy this way too!
  • You can take a shortcut and substitute one jar (about 24 ounces) of your favorite marinara or spaghetti sauce instead of making the sauce from scratch.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days. Reheat over medium-low heat in a covered pan on the stove (add a small amount of water if it has become a little dry), stirring occasionally, or you can reheat it in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave.
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