Pasta alla Norma
Pasta alla Norma, is a popular dish in Sicilian kitchens. A tasty combination of tomatoes, eggplants, basil and ricotta this gluten-free version is simple enough for weekday dinners, yet fancy enough for a dinner party. Serve with fresh arugula salad. Omit ricotta for a dairy-free option.
1 large eggplant (about 1 ½ pounds or so)
Salt – for sprinkling on eggplant
1 pound of gluten-free penne (or similar) pasta (Check label for allergens)
4 tablespoons olive oil - separated
4 large garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 medium onion, peeled, halved, and sliced thin
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (or more or less to taste)
Black ground pepper, to taste
1 ½ to 2 pounds Roma (or other plum type) tomatoes, stemmed and cored and cut into 1 ½”chunks
3 tablespoons tomato paste
About 10-12 large basil leaves – stemmed and shredded
1 cup ricotta cheese - optional (Omit for dairy free)
Cut the eggplant into ½” cubes and place on paper towels, or a clean dish cloth. Sprinkle with a small amount of salt and cover with another paper towel. Let the eggplant sit for about 15 minutes to extract some of the liquid in them.
Next, cook the pasta according to package directions. Once pasta is done, remove from heat, drain the pasta while reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water. Place pasta back into pot and toss with about a ½ tablespoon of olive oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.
While the eggplant is sitting and the pasta is cooking, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large deep skillet. Add in the garlic and onion slices, and crushed red pepper. Cook, while stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes and the onions and garlic start to soften.
Wipe off the excess salt from the eggplant cubes with a clean paper towel, and toss into the onion / garlic mixture. Season with black pepper. Cook uncovered for about 8-10 minutes of until the eggplant starts to soften, stirring during the cooking time. Add a teaspoon or two of water in the mixture sticks to the bottom of the skillet during the cooking time.
Next add the tomatoes, tomato paste and the ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water. Continue to cook for about 5-6 minutes or until the tomatoes are softened.
Place the pasta in a large bowl, and toss gently to separate. Add in the shredded basil and the sauce. Mix gently. Reheat over low-medium heat, turn gently to prevent scorching, if necessary.
Dish into serving bowls and top with a dollop of ricotta cheese, if desired (omit ricotta cheese for dairy free).