• STEP 1

    Toss the aubergines with the salt, then tip into a colander set over a bowl for 30 mins, to extract any moisture.

  • STEP 2

    Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a casserole dish or saucepan. Tip in the onion and a pinch of salt, and cook over a low heat for 10 mins. Add the garlic and chilli, and cook for 1 min. Tip in the tomatoes and sugar, and bring to the simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 20 mins, stirring occasionally. Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.

  • STEP 3

    Pat the aubergine dry with kitchen paper, then toss with the remaining oil. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for 25-30 mins until softened and golden around the edges. Meanwhile, cook the pasta following pack instructions, reserving 100ml of the cooking water.

  • STEP 4

    Stir the aubergine into the sauce with the basil and capers. Season to taste, then toss the spaghetti in the pan with the sauce and a splash of the pasta water. Divide between four bowls and top with the ricotta and extra basil, if using.

Where did pasta alla norma originate from?

Pasta alla norma comes from Catania, a coastal city in east Sicilia in Italy. This was the hometown of 19th-century Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini who wrote the famous opera Norma. It’s believed that the Italian writer Nino Martoglio exclaimed ‘Chista è ‘na vera Norma’ or ‘This is a real Norma’ – meaning a masterpiece – when he tasted the dish, hence the name.

What are the main ingredients in pasta alla norma?

This simple Sicilian dish typically consists of aubergines in a rich marinara sauce made with tomatoes and fresh basil. It’s traditionally topped with ricotta salata, which is a pressed and salted version of ricotta, but you could also use parmesan or pecorino.

How to cook the aubergines for pasta alla norma

Traditionally the aubergines are fried, but we’ve roasted them instead. As well as being an easier method (as you don’t have to stand over a frying pan and turn the aubergines), it lightens the dish because it uses less oil, and allows the vegetables to hold their shape better in the sauce.

What is the best pasta to use for this dish?

Pasta alla norma is a versatile dish that works equally well with short rigatoni or macaroni tubes as well as long spaghetti. We’ve gone for the latter option in this recipe.

Can I make pasta alla norma vegan?

It is easy to make this dish vegan by using egg-free spaghetti and replacing the cheese topping with vegan Italian-style hard cheese or vegan soured cream in place of ricotta. Adding a touch of vegan crème fraîche also brightens the dish and makes it slightly lighter.

What to serve with pasta alla norma

Although this dish is easily a meal in itself, you could accompany it with a fresh rocket salad or Italian bean and olive salad. If catering for big appetites, a generous wedge of garlic bread or focaccia wouldn't go amiss, either.

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