Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma
Pasta alla Norma blends the flavours of aubergines, tomatoes, basil and ricotta. It is a typical example of Sicilian cuisine, it was originally created in Catania, Sicily, in southern Italy.
The term Norma seems to refer to the lady who developed the dish to a standard which was deemed as high as Bellini’s opera “La Norma”.
This Pasta alla Norma recipe was written by Sara Danesin, a Finalist in the 2011 MasterChef UK TV programme.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mediterranean
Servings 4


  • 500 ml tomato sauce
  • 400 g mezze maniche pasta
  • 200 g salted ricotta (or a 50/50 mix of parmigiano/pecorino romano as substitute)
  • 150 ml olive oil
  • 12 basil leaves
  • 2 aubergines/eggplant
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 200 ml extra virgin olive oil



  • Slice the aubergines width-wise, and sprinkle them with rock salt as you layer them to ‘sweat’ in a colander. Place a weight on top of the colander and allow at least half an hour for the excess water to drain from the aubergines. Pat the slices dry afterwards and fry them in olive oil.
  • Rest the fried aubergines in absorbent paper and slice in strips (½cm/¼in width).


  • Slice two shallots and sauté in a pan with 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, add the tinned tomato and let the sauce reduce to a jam like consistency.
  • When the tomato sauce is ready, add the aubergines, mix well, add the finely chopped basil and the grated ricotta (or parmesan /pecorino). If the sauce is a little too dense, add – before the cheese – half a ladle of boiling water and mix well.
  • To cook the pasta, use a large capacity pan and bring to the boil 4 litres of water, add salt and then the pasta.
  • Drain the pasta and plate up by pouring over the sauce, and sprinkle with a little parmesan.

If you love Italian food, you might find our article about Italian Food Terms useful.


What does Pasta alla Norma mean?

Rumour is that Pasta alla Norma got its name from the opera by Vincenzo Bellini: “Chista è ’na vera Norma!”, which translates as “This is a real Norma (i.e. a masterpiece)”, is what the famous Comedy writer Nino Martoglio announced when he tasted the dish.

According to a 5th century Chinese scroll, fashionable Chinese women used to make a dye out of the skin of purple aubergines and polish their teeth with it until they were a shiny gray.