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Pasta alla Norma: a perfect dish

Dish of pasta alla Norma prepared to perfection

Summer is coming, and what is one of the most popular first courses in Sicily? Pasta alla Norma!

My grandmother delights me with this dish every summer Sunday for lunch. You won’t believe it, but you need very few ingredients to make this delicacy.

First, you need to prepare the tomato sauce and fry the eggplants. Be careful with eggplants. You have to slice them long, but some people cut them into cubes. That is what some chefs do in their restaurants, especially for a matter of practicality and presentation of the dish (these are the same reasons why chefs choose cannolo scomposto), but I consider it a sacrilege. My grandmother, born in Catania, slices them and fries them in olive oil. Yes, you read that right. We fry the eggplants in olive oil.

At this point, you can cook the pasta, which must be short. I use rigatoni or cataneselle. Someone dares with spaghetti, but this choice does not reflect tradition at all, so don’t do it at home 😀

Drain the pasta and mix it with the sauce. Add the eggplants and sprinkle (without mixing) with the other essential ingredient, namely salted ricotta, a typical product of Southern Italy. Woe betide those who sprinkle the Norma with a different cheese!

To decorate, fresh basil.

I remember that many years ago some friends from Modena came to visit us in Sicily and were delighted by this delicacy. How to blame them! I believe that pasta alla Norma, in its simplicity, can make all mouths water 🙂

The origin of the name Pasta alla Norma

I have wondered for years what the origin of this name was. Are you wondering too? Here is the answer.

Pasta alla Norma was born in Catania, and this is the only certainty 😀 Yes, because there are not one, not two, but three theories on the origin of the name. Let’s start.

Nino Martoglio and Vincenzo Bellini

It is said that in 1920, in via Etnea, a lunch was held at the Musco-Pandolfini house. Among the diners were Angelo Musco, his sister Anna and her husband Giuseppe Pandolfini, and Nino Martoglio. It was Martoglio himself who, addressing the cook, exclaimed “Signora Saridda, chi­sta è ‘na vera Norma!” (that is “Mrs. Saridda, this is a real Norma!”) as soon as he smelled the course. You may be wondering what Bellini has to do with this story. Well, Norma is one of his most successful works. Therefore it is thought that Martoglio wanted to pay an indirect but heartfelt homage to the great composer from Catania.

That is the most accredited theory.

Professor Norma

Professor Norma is the protagonist of the second version. She was a young woman so beautiful that she could leave you breathless, just like the traditional Sicilian dish.

Pasta a Norma

The third and final theory relates to the expression a norma, which refers to something that has been done perfectly.

Theories… What matters, however, is the substance! Fried eggplants, salted ricotta… As you can see, we Sicilians like light food in summer 😀

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