Classic Italian pasta alla Norma is an easy baked pasta dish with tomato sauce, eggplant, and ricotta salata. A hearty meatless main dish or a great vegetarian side.
The weather these days has not been my friend. I’m ready for sweater weather, soup weather, hearty-braised-stew weather. Instead, it’s been sunny and 90 degrees. I decided to ignore that the other night and turn on the oven to make this pasta alla norma. It’s one of those easy baked pasta dishes that can be made ahead and is oh-so-comforting when it comes out of the oven. I assembled it it the afternoon and then just popped it in the oven when we were ready to eat.
The eggplant is quickly pa-fried before layering in the pan, but there’s no breading, so it’s really quite easy. I used marinara sauce from Dreyer’s Farms, but substitute your favorite or make a batch of easy tomato sauce. Don’t skimp on the cheeses – the Pecorino makes this smell amazing as it cooks and the ricotta salata is a brilliant finish.
- 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into ¼-inch thick rounds
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- ½ pound ziti or penne pasta
- 1½ cups tomato sauce
- ½ cup toasted breadcrumbs
- ¾ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 12 basil leaves
- Ricotta salata
- Season the eggplant rounds with salt and pepper.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Saute the eggplant until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels. If needed, work in batches, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- Toss the pasta with 1 cup of the tomato sauce.
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Rub a little oil in the bottom of a 9-inch round or square baking dish. Add half the pasta. Layer half the eggplant on top of the pasta. Dot with ¼ cup of the sauce. Sprinkle with half the Pecorino and half the breadcrumbs. Tear 6 of the basil leaves over the top.
- Layer the remaining past on top and then the remaining eggplant. Dot with remaining sauce and then sprinkle the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs over the top. Tear the remaining basil leaves over it and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until heated thru and top is golden brown.
- Grate plenty of ricotta salata over the top and serve immediately.