From the kitchen of: Pina Sambataro
Vincenzo Bellini is a type of hometown hero in these parts. The Italian opera writer was born in the nearby city of Catania in 1801. One of his most popular operas is called, “Norma.” It is after the heroine of this particular opera, the well-known Sicilian dish, “pasta alla norma,” was named.
Like most Sicilian cuisine, this dish is very simple but using fresh, flavorful ingredients, it’s sure to be a hit at your next dinner party!
Pasta Alla Norma
Makes 4 servings
To start, wash and cube a melanzana (eggplant). Using olive oil and a little salt, fry the cubed pieces of eggplant in a frying pan over medium heat.
Boil water for the pasta and don’t forget to put salt in the water! Thankfully there have only been a few instances but every time I have forgotten to put salt in the water, regardless of who I was cooking for, my Sicilian friends have always noticed!
While I don’t believe there is an official type of pasta used for making pasta alla norma, “penne rigate” is a common one to use and the one Pina specifically recommends. She also suggests using our local Sicilian brand of pasta, Poiatti, where available.
While the pasta is cooking: In a small saucepan, heat a jar of plain, unseasoned tomato puree (“passata di pomodoro” – strained puree, “pezzettini” – chunky tomato puree, or a mix of both) over low-medium heat. Add a little salt, a clove of garlic (“spicchi di agilo”) and a few leaves of fresh basil to the puree and stir.
When the pasta is ready, remove from heat and strain. Add the sauce and cubes of fried eggplant and mix thoroughly.
Serve with freshly grated ricotta cheese (specifically “ricotta salata“) and enjoy!
Bellini’s Opera House
Naturally, Catania’s beautiful opera house, Teatro Massimo, is named after Bellini. While I have seen it many times from the outside, I just recently had the opportunity to see the inside of the theater when a friend invited me to join her in seeing the opera, Rigoletto. Here are a few photos of the theater:
Click on the link below to read more about Vincenzo Bellini’s, “Norma.”