Seasonal Flavors: Eggplant Pasta

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When you just don’t have it in you to make eggplant parmesan (peel the eggplant, slice the eggplant, salt the eggplant, wipe the eggplant, fry the eggplant, make the tomato sauce, grate the parmesan, assemble the dish and bake), you have a lovely alternative in Pasta a la Norma, a.k.a. eggplant pasta.

Eggplant is possibly my favorite vegetable and yes, it and almost everything else, including cardboard, is delicious when breaded and fried, but eggplant with pasta is simply wonderful and really easy to prepare.

I was lucky enough to enjoy this in Sicily where it is called Pasta a la Norma, named for one of Vincenzo Bellini’s operas. When I had it there, the chef used wagon wheel shaped pasta, but of course any shape or size will do.

Eggplant season is almost over, so get on this while the local eggplant is still available.

Pasta a la Norma

  • 1 large eggplant
  • ~¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 4 large fresh tomatoes OR 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • ¾ lb rotelle (wagon wheel) or other pasta

Heat the oil in a heavy dutch oven pan. Peel the eggplant and cut into pieces one inch by ½ inch. Saute till brown in the oil. Add more oil, a little at a time if needed so that the eggplant doesn’t stick to the pan. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes (add a little more oil if needed). Add the garlic, cook for about a minute. Test the eggplant with a fork to make sure it’s cooked through and then add the tomatoes and the chopped basil. Turn heat to simmer. No need to cook this a long time. As soon as the pasta is ready, this sauce will be perfect.

Bring to a boil a large pan of salted water. Cook the pasta until tender/al dente.   Drain and then pour the pasta into the sauce. Gently mix the pasta into the sauce. Serve and pass the grated cheese. Serves 4.

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