Recipe video above. This is a traditional Italian pasta dish from Sicily, usually begun by cooking eggplant on the stove in a hefty amount of oil. I prefer roasting the eggplant - less oil plus the eggplant holds its shape better, especially when you roast at a high temp to caramelise the surface!Finishing with a good amount of fresh basil is traditional but even if you don't have any, there's other alternatives to add a touch of other flavour - such as fresh thyme, or extra dried herbs in the sauce.This is an excellent and satisfyingly "meaty" vegetarian main dish that will have even card-carrying carnivores asking for seconds!
Prep Time10 minutesmins
Cook Time45 minutesmins
Keyword: eggplant pasta, Pasta alla norma, roasted eggplant
Preheat oven to 240°C / 450°F (220°C fan). Line a tray with baking / parchment paper.
Toss eggplant with oil, salt and pepper. Spread on the tray and roast for 20 minutes.
Flip, then roast for a further 5 minutes. Cool on tray (this helps the eggplant hold its shape when tossing).
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Start cooking the pasta a couple of minutes after you start making the sauce (next section), until al dente or to your liking.
Heat oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, cook for 20 seconds until golden, then add onion and cook for 2 to 3 minutes until translucent and cooked through.
Increase heat to medium-high and add wine, if using. Let it simmer, scraping the base of the pan to deglaze, until the wine mostly evaporates.
Add tomato passata. Now pour the water into the passata bottle, screw on the lid, shake, and pour that in too (waste nothing!)
Add dried herbs, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir and simmer 5 minutes.
Stir in eggplant, then add cooked and drained pasta. GENTLY toss until pasta is coated in the sauce (so the eggplant doesn't turn into complete mush!).
Serve immediately, garnished with a good pinch of fresh basil and parmesan.
1. Wine - excellent way to elevate simple quick simmer sauces like this, adds depth of flavour. You can't taste the wine and the alcohol is cooked out. Omit if you can't consume alcohol.I use sauvignon blanc and pinot gris as they are my standard drinking wines. You do NOT need to use an expensive wine, you can't tell the difference. I like to pick up bargain bottles when I see them at the liquor store for cooking purposes only. Freeze leftovers in ice cube trays then once frozen, in containers in the freezer - for easy use going forward. 2. Tomato passata - pureed, strained tomatoes, sometimes labelled Tomato Puree in the US (here's a photo of Mutti brand Tomato Passata sold at Walmart). Readily available in Australian supermarkets nowadays, alongside pasta sauces. Smooth and thick rather than chunky like canned tomato, so no need to simmer to break down the tomato.Crushed canned tomato can be used instead, but simmer sauce for 20 minutes to soften the tomato (adjust pasta cooking time start too, accordingly).3. Fresh basil is a key element of traditional Pasta alla Norma. However if you don't have it, you can compensate by adding other herby flavours such as:
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves - this is really good, it's my favourite when I don't have basil!
1/2 tsp dried thyme or oregano - extra, added into the sauce
4. Making ahead / reheating: Toss eggplant in sauce then cool and use as needed. For reheating pasta already in sauce, this pasta reheats better than most because it’s quite saucy from the Tomato Passata. Just reheat in the microwave for 2 minutes on high (for 1 serving), using water as needed to loosen.