Pasta alla norma is a satisfying Sicilian pasta recipe with tender eggplant, herby tomato sauce, and ricotta salata cheese. All the comforting Italian flavors we love in just one pan. This is a vegetarian pasta recipe that even meat lovers will enjoy! (Tips & how-to video below)
Easy Sicilian Pasta with Eggplant
Originally from Catania, a city on the eastern coast of Sicily, Pasta alla Norma is a delicious Sicilian pasta made with tender eggplant and tossed in a herby tomato sauce and a sprinkle of ricotta salata cheese.
This eggplant pasta recipe makes a satisfying vegetarian dinner that even meat lovers enjoy! Most recipes will call for frying or sautéing the eggplant, but I find it easier (and still just as delicious) to use roasted eggplant instead.
If you love dishes like eggplant parmesan and Italian caponata, you will want to try this pasta alla norma recipe!
Ingredients to make Pasta alla Norma
There are four simple components to this eggplant pasta recipe, and it takes just a few ingredients that are fairly available year-round. Here's what you'll need:
- Eggplant. You'll need two globe eggplants. Select eggplant with deep-colored, shiny skins, and they should be heavy for their size.
- Tomato sauce (marinara sauce). It's easy to make this pasta sauce using extra virgin olive oil, canned diced tomatoes, minced garlic, dried oregano, curshed pepper flakes (if you don't mind a little heat), and a dash of kosher salt and black pepper. (If you keep some homemade spagetti sauce in your fridge, that will work too. Or, if you're too short on time, you can use a quality store-bought marinara sauce instead).
- Pasta. For this recipe I prefer using a short cylindar-shaped pasta like rigatoni with ridges. The gaping center and the ridges will hold on to the tomato sauce, making every bite extra flavorful.
- Finishing touches. A good sprinkle of ricotta salata cheese (which is a salty and more firm than ricotta) and fresh parsley finish this pasta alla norma recipe.
How to cook eggplant for pasta alla norma?
For a traditional pasta alla norma recipe, you'll start by frying the eggplant. Don't get me wrong, I love tender fried eggplant but it does take a bit more work and can be messy.
In this lightened up version, I decided to roast the eggplant slices with a little bit of good extra virgin olive oil. And while the eggplant is roasting, I can make the sauce and get my pasta started.
A high heated oven is best for roasted eggplant (I set mine to 425 degrees F). And it's important to arrange the eggplant slices comfortably on your sheet pan in one single layer (use two sheet pans if needed).
Should you salt eggplant before you cook it?
We've touched on this hotly debated topic before. Salting the eggplant before cooking is an optional step, but I believe it does make a difference in flavoring the eggplant and helping improve its spongy texture.
If you have the time, sprinkle the eggplant slices on both sides with a bit of kosher salt and set them aside on a flat surface for a few minutes (30 minutes or so). Using a paper towel, wipe the eggplant dry and remove excess salt before cooking.
How to make pasta alla norma (step-by-step)
This pasta recipe takes a few simple steps. You'll begin with roasting the eggplant while you work on your red sauce and cook your pasta. Once the eggplant is ready, you'll toss everything together for the perfect vegetarian dinner. Here is the step-by-step for how to make this pasta with eggplant (the print-friendly version is just below) :
- Roast the eggplant
Slice the eggplant into rounds, and if you have the time, sprinkle with salt and allow it a few minutes to "sweat." Wipe dry with a paper towel before roasting. Arrange the eggplant slices directly on a lightly oiled large sheet pan (or two).
Give the eggplant slices a good brush of extra virgin olive oil and roast in 425 degree heated-oven for 30 minutes (turning over once midway through) until the eggplant is soft and golden brown (yes, you want the eggplant to cook fully until nice and tender and well-colored)
- Make the tomato sauce
You'll need a large deep pan to make the sauce (everything will go in this pan later). Heat a bit of extra virgin olive oil (about 3 tablespoons) until shimmering but not smoking. Cook the garlic and red pepper flakes, tossing regularly over medium-low heat (don't let the garlic burn). Add in the diced tomatoes (canned tomatoes), oregano, salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer until nice and thick (about 15 minutes or so).
- Cook the pasta
While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta. Rigatoni cooks in salted boiling water in about 1o to 11 minutes (consult the pacakage instructions to cook your pasta to al dante). Be sure not to overcook the pasta, it will have a couple minutes more to cook in the sauce. Drain the pasta but be sure to keep a bit of the pasta water.
- Combine the eggplant, sauce, and pasta
Put it all together! Once the eggplant is roasted, add it in the sauce and let it simmer a little while as the pasta cooks. When the pasta is ready, mix it in with the eggplant and the sauce. Add a little bit of the pasta water to help mix things together. Give everything a good toss and allow a couple of minutes for the pasta to absorb the sauce.
- Finish with ricotta salata and fresh parsley
Add a good sprinkle of salty ricotta salata and a handful of fresh parsley (and for me, I like a little more crushed red pepper flakes for heat).
Serve it with
The great thing about this vegetarian pasta recipe is that it is a great meal by itself, you don't need to add much else to the dinner table. I like to start with a big fresh salad like this white bean salad or a simple lemony arugula salad.
And if you need a fun Italian appetizer, maybe throw in some antipasti skewers!
Hungry for more? Check out more Italian recipes; the ribollita soup and chicken piccata are fan favorites!
More eggplant recipes to try
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Pasta alla Norma Recipe
- 2 eggplants (about 2 pounds in total)
- Kosher salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 14.5- ounce cans diced tomatoes with their juices
- 1 ½ teaspoon dry oregano
- ¾ pound Rigatoni pasta
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup grated Ricotta salata
- Slice and Salt the Eggplant. Trim the eggplant and partially peel them in a striped pattern (zebra pattern). Slice them into ½ inch thick rounds. Season the eggplant slices with kosher salt on both sides and lay them flat for a few minutes (up to 30 minutes if you have the time). Wipe the eggplant dry and remove excess salt using a paper towel.
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Roast the eggplant. Brush the bottom of a large sheet pan (or two) with extra virgin olive oil. Arrange the eggplant slices in the pans in one single layer (eggplant slices should not overlap, each should be comfortably touching the bottom of the sheet pan). Roast in the heated oven until deeply golden brown, anywhere from 35 to 40 minutes, turning over mid-way through.
- Make the Sauce. Meanwhile, get going on the sauce. In a large deep pan, heat 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, lower the heat and cook, tossing regularly, until the garlic gains a little bit of color. Add the tomatoes (with their juices), oregano and a good pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Bring the mixture to a quick boil, then lower the heat and let simmer briefly.
- When ready, add the roasted eggplant to sauce. Let simmer while you cook the pasta.
- Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package instructions (mine took about 11 minutes). Drain and combine the pasta with the eggplant and sauce (if needed, add a little bit of the pasta water and toss until the pasta is well-coated). Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Add chopped parsley and grated ricotta salata cheese to finish.
- Salting the eggplant before cooking is an optional step, but I do think it helps its flavor and texture
- Other tomato sauce options: If you keep some homemade spagetti sauce in your fridge, that will work too. Or, if you're too short on time, you can use a quality store-bought marinara sauce instead).
- Make-ahead option: You can prepare the sauce and roast the eggplant one day in advance. Store them in the fridge in separate containers.
- Leftovers & Storage: Store leftover pasta all norma in a tight-lid container in the fridge for 3 days. Warm up over medium heat.
- Visit Our Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oil
*This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in December of 2020 and has been recently updated for readers' benefit.
So yummy. Definitely a go to recipe even just for the sauce!!
Very yummy dish, and very fast & easy.
I did salt & wipe the eggplant before roasting at 450°. I used my own Arrabbiata sauce since I had it on hand and that gave it a bit of an extra kick. I used penne pasta just because it's easier for some to handle, though the rigatoni picks up more of the sauce- a trade off. Lastly, I didn't have ricotta salada so I added a dollop of regular ricotta on top of each serving. It was wonderful.
Utterly delicious and so simple! Don't skip roasting those eggplants, such amazing flavour 🙂 We used feta because that's what we had in the fridge.
This recipe was an unexpected surprise with flavor! It tasted like it came straight out of a restaurant's kitchen. My spouse doesn't care for eggplant because it can be mushy, but following this recipe with drying it out with salt for 30 mins really did the trick! It even tastes better the next day after the noodles soak up all the juices. When putting leftovers away, I saved 3/4 cup pasta water to pour over so it wouldn't be dry the next day. Serving it for lunch the next day, was even better than the first night! This recipe is perfect for a dinner party!
Will be doing this 2 nite
So healthy my Dr. asked me are you on a diet?
My lab results were excellent
I told her I'm doing the Mediterranean Dish.com
Suzy you are the best.
That is so wonderful to hear, Miriam!!
Suzy, This is another delicious recipe from you! I will definitely make this again!
Yay! Thanks, Barb!
Another delicious recipe! I was pressed for time so did not have time to roast the eggplant. Instead I cooked it on my grill pan until just a hint of char. This recipe is the magical mix of simple to make but complex flavours.
Suzy - every time I make one of your recipes, I feel like like someone who is “making dinner” to “a cook”. Thank you so much.
Thank you for trying the recipe and taking the time to leave a review.
This is so so delicious! I do not usually love eggplant, but I salted roasted and chopped. Yum! Thank you.
I’m glad you loved it, Sue!
sensational and simple pasta dish! thanks Susi!! I liked the grilled aubergine and made some extra for my salad which was njum.
Forgot the rating! Five stars, if it wasn't clear from my comment 🙂
I am originally from Catania, so I grew up eating this dish. Your recipe is the first one I've found in English that is 100% correct, down to the fried eggplants and the ricotta salata. Well done!
The only thing I would add, from years of experience in making pasta alla norma in a lighter version, is that I do salt the eggplants, but I put them covered in a container with a weighted object on top, so that the slices/cubes are well-pressed. After an hour, I thoroughly rinse the eggplant, then I cook it in a non-stick pan, without adding oil or salt. It stays tender and tastes sweet. Sometimes I add the tomato sauce in the same pan with some onions, so all the ingredients and flavours mix.
To everyone who wants to try an original Italian recipe, this one is perfect for you!
To anyone wanting to add protein, just do what we do in Italy: have a second course of your favourite protein (meat, poultry, tofu...) and the salad Suzy suggested and enjoy your Italian meal!
Wow! Thank you for the very kind review, Maria! Thank you for sharing your eggplant tips!
Another delicious recipe!! Thank you Suzy!
I tried it for the first time today. Absolutely delicious.
Awesome! Thanks, Becky!
This was so good! So much flavor- will definitely be making this again and again!
Thanks for the great recipe!
Since I have been following your web site and using your recipes, this is my first failure. I am a bit nervous using eggplants so before embarking on the making of this dish, I read your recipe and comments very carefully and watched your video then set to work. Unfortunately the dish was inedible, just far too salty.
I am not giving up on the dish however ,and I am going to make it again, but next time, I am not going to salt the eggplant first. I am going to grill them on my bar-b-que (coat with oil and herbs first) and cook them for a couple of minutes on each side until they have that nice grilled look, then use them in the Pasta all Norma Recipe.
I also read some other recipes using eggplants but the method of cooking the eggplant varied. Some said to salt them, then thoroughly rinse them with water afterwards and others said, dont bother salting them at all. Anyway, as I said, I not going to salt them next time and I will grill them first on the bar-b-que.
I am sure everything will work out fine this way.
Thanks for sharing, William. I hope you give it another try with your adaptations and come back to let us know how it worked out.
In my review of this recipe on July 21 2021, (above) I expressed my disappointment at the result after trying it out. The problem for me was that after following the recipe as written, the dish was far too salty and really, inedible. However, as indicated in my review, I said that I was not giving up because this dish has potential, so I tried it out again. This time, I did not salt the eggplants prior to cooking (as per step 1 in the recipe). I cut the eggplant into approximately half inch (2.5cm) rounds, brushed each side with olive oil, then grilled them on my bar b que (over the flame) for approximately 2/3 minutes each side - until they had a nice charred grilled look (carful not to burn them). If you don't want to bar b que the eggplant, you could cook it this way on a heavy skillet. Then again, you could roast it as per step 3 in the recipe. When the eggplant is cooked I then followed the recipe without any further changes. The end result was a delicious dish, boosted by the flavour of the grilled eggplant. This recipe will now go into our regular meal time recipe list.
Hi, William. I'm so glad you tried this one again! Thanks for sharing your feedback!
I tossed in 2 minced anchovies with the garlic and chillis which brought the taste to a whole new level.
Sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing, Maureen!
Do you think I could add portobello mushrooms. Roasted in oven?
So I added the roasted portabellos,,some red Onion, & red peppers (fresh, roasted)
It was amazing!!!! Could not get ricotta salata so I added a little fresh goat cheese. Really top notch! Thank you!
I love pasta and am trying to go more plant based, so this was a great recipe to try. Really tasty overall, but I would caution anyone to check on the eggplant while roasting as some of my smaller rounds ended up burning. Could be an issue with my oven or maybe I sliced some too thin.
The detailed instructions at the beginning say roast for 30 minutes, but the recipe card section says 35-40 (which is what I did). Would recommend checking after 30 and then going longer if needed.
This sounds spectacular! Do you have a recommendation for adding a protein (meat!) for my husband?
Hi, Sue! You can add whatever protein you enjoy... chicken, ground meat, etc. Enjoy!