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Penne alla norma

We love Rick Stein’s recipes as everything seems to come from true inspiration and has been tested in a real world kitchen so it all works. This recipe is no exception and delivers in flavour and balance perfectly.

Pasta alla Norma is traditionally made with spaghetti but worked just as well penne pasta as a substitute.

Wine Suggestions: Aubergine tends to work with Southern Italian reds really well, but we had an unexpected burst of sunshine so opened a Provençal rosé, Chateau Vignelaure La Source, which is an old favourite. It worked a treat and  will definitely try it again with other aubergine dishes.

Pasta alla Norma – Pasta with Aubergines, Tomatoes, Chilli & Cheese – serves 4

  • 500g aubergines (2 large ones)
  • 500g well-flavoured tomatoes or top quality tinned plum tomatoes, drained (Italian brands are best)
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 400g dried spaghetti
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¼ tsp crushed dried chillies
  • A large handful of fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 100g finely grated ricotta salata or crumbled feta cheese

Trim the aubergines and cut into two across the middle, then cut each piece lengthways into chip-sized sticks. Toss with 1 tsp of salt and set in a colander over a bowl to drain for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, if using fresh tomatoes, squeeze them over the sink to get rid of most of the juice and seeds. Roughly chop the tomatoes and set aside.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil (about 4.5 litres) and season generously with salt (about 8 teaspoons).

Pat the aubergines dry with kitchen paper to remove the salt and any liquid. Heat 4 tbsp of the frying pan, add half the aubergines and fry until lightly golden. Lift onto a plate lined with kitchen paper  and leave to drain while you fry the next batch. After removing the second batch of aubergine, leave the oil in the frying pan to cool.

Put the spaghetti into the boiling water and cook according to the packet or until al dente. 

Before the pasta is ready, add the remaining oil and the garlic to the cooled frying pan and return to the heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle gently, add the crushed chillies and the tomatoes and cook over a high heat for a few minutes or until they have broken down into a sauce. Season well and stir in the aubergines.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce with the torn basil and half the cheese, then toss well. Divide between warm bowls and serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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