Straight from Sicily in Italy Colleen George brings this scrumptious vegetarian dish.
I learned how to make this traditional Sicilian dish at a cooking class in Sicily; it is named after a popular opera, Norma. Although there are not many ingredients in this dish, they should be fresh and high quality. This dish can be made the easy way (buying pre-made tomato passata) or the hard way (making your own passata). Either way, it is delicious, and full of flavor. I cook this dish using only approximate amounts of ingredients (the way I learned it). Feel free to adjust the measurements to suit the way it would taste best to you. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of olive oil. Generally I use about three cups for the whole recipe.
Wash about 6 pounds of medium/large size tomatoes, and quarter them. Put them in a pot over medium heat, occasionally stirring. When they are soft and mushy, remove them from the heat and drain any excess liquid. (This can be reserved for other uses, for example soup). Working in batches, process the tomatoes through a Foley food mill until only the skin and seeds remain. This will take a considerable amount of time. Put the tomatoes in a saucepan, add two cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of salt and some fresh basil leaves to the tomato passata (just obtained). Cook over ½ heat (half covered with the lid of the pot) until the volume reduces by half. Or, buy ready-made tomato passata, but you still need to reduce it and add garlic, salt, and basil. When it has finished cooking, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Remove the top and stripe the skin of two eggplants, preferably round ones rather than cylindrical, and chop into 1” cubes. Put the eggplant in a bowl of salt water (3 tablespoons salt per 2 liters water), and depress it with a plate so the eggplant is fully covered, for about 20 minutes. Take the eggplant out of the water, and pat it dry using a clean cloth. Make sure it is very dry. Add a generous amount of olive oil into a pan, and fry the eggplant, in batches, until it is a light chocolate brown on all sides. When the eggplant is finished cooking, remove it from the oil and place on some paper towels to soak up the extra oil, and pat it dry.
Cook pasta al dente in salted water. Drain the pasta, return it to the pot, add some tomato sauce to cover well, and cook for about a minute.
Assemble the tomato-covered pasta and eggplant in a bowl, and add some shredded ricotta salata and basil to taste. (You can substitute fresh Parmesan if you can’t find ricotta salata.)
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Colleen George