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Pasta Alla Norma

There's lots of eggplant in season right now and here's the dish you want to make with it. This wonderful pasta dish is hugely popular in Sicily. It is named after Vincenzo Bellini's opera "Norma".  Bellini was a Sicilian born in Catania, where my mother went to school.  This dish is a delicious vegetarian dish, that uses a lot of the best ingredients of Sicily - eggplant, ricotta salata and basil.   And it's a snap to make. 

Most "Pasta alla Norma" recipes call for frying the eggplant, but I think roasting it is tastier and easier and doesn't take quite so much oil. 

The traditional recipe calls for ricotta salata - a fantastic dry salted ricotta popular in Sicily that is very different from the usual grocery store ricotta.  It is a firm cheese that you grate. You can find this item in better grocery stores and Italian delis or online. If you cannot find it at all, try substituting feta cheese but do try to find ricotta salata.  It's worth it!

ricotta salata - a sheep's milk cheese popular in Sicily 


Pasta Alla Norma 

for a printable recipe, click here

Serves 2-3 as a main dish


  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1" cubes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided 
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • pinch of red hot chili flakes
  • 1 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed
  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 1.5 ounces ricotta salata
  • handful of fresh basil leaves 

Use San Marzano tomatoes if you can.  If not, I like Muir Glen whole
tomatoes - they have a great taste 


Preheat oven to 400° F.  On a baking sheet, toss the eggplant cubes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the dried oregano, sea salt and some freshly ground pepper.  Roast for about 25 minutes. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for your pasta.

my favorite way of preparing garlic - grating
it on a coarse Microplane grater 

Place 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a large saucepan or skillet.  Add the grated garlic and gently cook for about 1 minute.  Add the chili flakes and the crushed tomatoes (I like to just crush them with my hands). Simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered.  (Start boiling your spaghetti at this point. Don't overcook it.) Add the roasted eggplant to your tomato mixture and simmer for 5 minutes, covered.  

Remove the spaghetti from the pot and put it right in the eggplant tomato mixture. Toss well. Add torn fresh basil leaves and some grated ricotta salata.  Turn out onto a serving platter and grate some more ricotta salata on top and tear some more basil leaves for the top. 

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Reader Comments (47)

I've seen other recipes for Pasta Alla Norma, but never one are beautiful as yours! Also, I never really knew what ricotta salata was; thank you for your great explanation and photo. I think my well-stocked gourmet grocery store will probably carry it. Now I know what to look for!

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKath

This is one of our favorite dishes. The Ricotta Salata is great with this!

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLucia

What do you think of Pomi tomatoes? I try to avoid using tomatoes in cans.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAntoinette

From The Italian Dish:

Antoinette: Pomi tomatoes are fine tomatoes. And if you have really good, ripe fresh tomatoes you can use those, too. The reason to use San Marzano tomatoes is that they are considered by some to be the best tomatoes in the world. They are grown in the Campania region of Italy and are picked at their absolute peak of ripeness. They are less acidic and sweeter than most tomatoes. They are really excellent, if you have never tried them. Canned tomatoes can disappoint, but San Marzanos do not!

September 22, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Perfect pasta dish! I could eat this every day!

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

Looks amazing. I agree with roasting. All vegetables are better when roasted. I bet the Cheese Lady has that cheese! if so I will give this one a try.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSheila

I am a recent convert to the Pomi brand, especially the Marinara blend. This is a great tasting pizza or spaghetti sauce as is, with none of the metallic taste of canned tomatoes. The San Marzanos in our area have become increasingly more expensive and frankly, there are times I really can't justify the cost, based on what I'm tasting. San Marzanos can be very good or quite mediocre;in my experience they are not made equally.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

I just got some ricotta salata and have been wondering just how to use it! Your pasta looks delish!

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKalyn

It doesn't look like you peel the eggplant, is that correct? My neighbor gave me eggplant and told me to peel it after taking off the thorns.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

This dish looks so good! Simple, rustic, and delicious!

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

This looks amazing! I'll do it for sure

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfran amenábar

I'm with you on the roasting of the eggplant vs. frying. I have four eggplants that are the last from the garden, and pasta alla norma is one of the things I will make with them. Thanks for the inspiration.

September 22, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterciaochowlinda

From The Italian Dish:

Susan: You don't need to peel the eggplant, only if you want to. I don't peel it!

September 22, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

I made this tonight and it looked just like the picture and was fantastic! The only change I made was that I used canned stewed tomatoes because that is what I had on hand and chili powder. I also used
crumbled feta cheese and added more garlic for our taste. Fabulous dish and love, love, love the
roasted eggplant. This will definitely be made again. Thanks very much.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelen

Yum. And I love the tins, their design.

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermsmarmitelover

I love Italian foods. Grazie!
Italian restaurant in Bristol

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterItalian restaurant in Bristol

This vegetable dish suits my healthy regimen for a better 'me'... giving me a smile with every bite! =)

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommentermyFudo

Merci pour ce beau partage Italien :)

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBridge25

I love pasta alla Norma and this one looks fabulous. I really like that you roast the eggplant instead of frying it.

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElise's Kitchen

Hi, i have to let you know that what you have going on here is absolutely fantastic....i love the food here and love you for sharing...keep it coming

September 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPanmeiz Cuisine

This dish was delicious! I found the ricotta salata at Mona Lisa Deli and Restaurant in Little Italy, San Diego. Looking forward to making (and enjoying) it again very soon.

September 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCeleste

I make this delicious dish with rigatoni, after I have mixed it all together I add some freshly grated ricotta salata and put it in an ovenproof dish and bake at 375 for 30 minutes!! Try it, you will love it!

September 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAntonette

I just posted about eggplant too! I adore this pasta and was just telling my husband we should make some during eggplant season. And here you have it! Great minds? ;)

PS- I'll add a link to this recipe in my post.

September 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersusan from food blogga

Eggplant is for sure in surplus! I cant resist it at the farmers market but have only been able to come up with a few recipes for it (focus of my culinary adventure on
Glad I saw it on here.....will definitely be trying it soon :)

September 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJules

I'vew been wanting to try this dish for a while and how you have convinced me. I can even find ricotta salata at a cheese store nearby!

October 6, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia

This really seems amazing and delightful!
There are all the ingredients I love, I can't wait to cook it this weekend...

October 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFrozen Pizzas

Io pasta alla Norma la faccio spesso e di solito uso i pomodori freschi che danno un sapore ottimo. Noi pasta alla Norma mangiamo con la ricotta infornata (
Adoro le tue foto!
Tantissimi saluti

November 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlizea

I am an aussie living in Italy and when I visited sicilly I fell in love Pasta alla Norma. I recently made it with paccheri (pasta) and the ricotta salata literally straight from the sheep shepard's door. It was marvellous! I am now using your recipe for a second tim,e only this time for my partner's mama. She is from Avellino in the South. fingers crossed it turns out as well as it did the first time!

March 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTanya

This was amazing with orrechiette. I used fresh plum tomatoes and was concerned about the extra liquid, but the eggplant soaked it all right up. The ricotta salata was so much cheaper than pecorino Romano I usually use in pasta dishes. I remember having this dish in Naples at a friend's house whose mother made it with rigatoni rigati and fresh bufala mozzarella which was also amazing. I will try that too next time I go to Costco and can get bufala cheese more cheaply than at the market.

July 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennyfriend

This weekend is the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California (of which I was a finalist in the cook-off several years ago) and every year since, I make a garlicky dish to bring back the great memories I have of the Festival. I plan to make your Pasta alla Norma with a little extra fresh garlic - this recipe sounds so delicious!

July 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnne @ Have a Cookie!

This recipe was in our Raley's Supermarket magazine. It looks so good, and they have the cheese, I am going to try this for sure. Thanks for the reminder.

January 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKaren C

I try to stay away from any canned tomato products. Could you use fresh tomatoes? Would there be a specific way to prepare them?

April 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJenna

Im Fabio from Catania Sicily, im in Manila Phill. with my wife. i make now a pasta but no basil no ricota chesee. i just want to see the real recipe of pasta alla norma to my wife. i just make only eggplant and tomato sauce, oh well my wife like it so much. ciao ciao ciao...

September 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterfabio and Myla

I love love love Pasta Alla Norma! I think I ate it everyday for a week when I was in Sicily. I’m planning on making it today although I’m struggling to find Ricotta Salata (even though I live in Bologna!). Your recipe looks great and so colorful!

November 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I'm thinking i'll use cotija in place of the ricotta solata. it's a dry, salty, crumbly Mexican cheese, and living in LA, it's found at every grocery store.

February 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJazzy

I live in the UK and have just bought some beautifully ripe fresh San Marzano tomatoes from my local Italian deli, along with some Ricotta Salata.
The recipe I normally follow for this not only roasts the eggplant (or aubergine as we call it here), but also the tomatoes. You slice the tomatoes in half, sprinkle with olive and crushed garlic then pop a basil leaf on top (you turn the basil leaf so that it gets covered in the oil) season and then roast until the toms start to blacken a little around the edges. Simply delicious! Haven't tried it with Ricotta yet so am looking forward to it tonight.

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

It was delicious!

August 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

Interesting recipe, I would offer it here in Amsterdam, where I cook since I moved in the Netherlands.

Many of these flavors look like much, Pasta alla Norma I did it once (usually I do other types of cuisines), I needed a new recipe. Thanks.

My sister is a vegetarian and a huge fan of eggplants. I'm convinced that she will love this recipe, so thanks a lot for sharing this recipe with us!

March 16, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterFabulousPasta

I adore meals like this! Colorful and vibrant and so full of lovely Italian flavors

this is my favourite vegetarian italian recipe with pasta

May 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterroxy

this recipe is delicious, thanks for sharing. I'm always looking for new recipes to try :-)


June 30, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterplasterer bristol

About how much does a “medium eggplant” weigh?

May 2, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNicky02114

Wonderful! I followed the instructions exactly except for substituting feta for the ricotta salata (sorry -- I live in a rural place with limited cheese options). Truly delicious and simple to make. I listened to La Stupenda Joan Sutherland singing the opera "Norma" while cooking, which may have led to an extra-inspired dish. ;)

September 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterLady Xi

Don't need to salt the eggplant & let sit beforehand?

July 12, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjoyce d

From The Italian Dish:

Joyce: Salting eggplant used to be done to remove bitterness, but that reason has pretty much been debunked. The only reason to salt eggplant is to collapse the tiny air holes in it that act like a sponge, absorbing oil. When you fry eggplant, you have to use a lot of oil because of these holes. If you collapse them using salt, the eggplant will need less oil. However, if you roast the eggplant, as I prefer to do, it is not an issue. So you can skip this step! Hope this helps.

July 12, 2017 | Registered Commenter[Elaine]

Your recipe tasted fantastic and we have added it to our collection as a keeper :-)

I would just like to point out that if you can't find Ricotta Salata at your local store it is so very easy to make your own. With a little planning you never have to be without it and use a substitute again. Just fill a round open ended mold (purchased or make your own with an old plastic or stainless steel container. Also a large dough cutting ring works too.) with fresh Ricotta (homemade like we do or just buy some really good REAL Ricotta from your local Italian foods market), press it with 10 to 15 pounds of weight (4.5 to 6.8kgs) for 12 to 24 hours in the refrigerator or until it feels like a firm semi solid brick. Salt all sides generously with NON-Iodized Salt (we prefer Sicilian Sea Salt), place in a container (we use glass, Pyrex, Corning Ware, etc.) but raised a little bit up off the bottom so it doesn't sit in the whey that is draining out. Drain of the whey and re-salt daily for 7 to 10 days, wipe off excess salt, dry with paper towels, wrap in cheese paper and keep in fridge sampling a sliver every 30 days until you are happy with the flavor.

May 13, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon J. Li

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