I’m happy to report that I actually ate a salad for lunch (not just bread and cheese).
Baby spinach topped with goat cheese, walnuts, cranberries, croutons, balsamic, olive oil, and salt and pepper.
However, the toast I originally planned on was replaced by a delicious slice of leftover pizza from this weekend. (I took a few bites when it was still cold before heating it up)
Anyhow, back to the original point of this post. Rigatoni alla Norma!
When traveling through Sicily a few years ago with my family we were introduced to a pasta dish called Penne alla Norma. From what I understand, the dish is named for Sicilian composer Vincenzo Bellini who wrote the opera "Norma".
It’s not anything too crazy, it’s a very simple dish in fact. Yet at least once a day one of us ordered it when were out. You may have even seen this dish on menus of Italian restaurants here in the US. I don’t see it that often, but if I do, chances are I’m ordering it.
Penne alla Norma is basically pasta, sauce, eggplant, and basil or mint. Sometimes when we ate it in Sicily there was mozzarella in it, sometimes there wasn’t.
Last night I had a craving for a warm and comforting pasta meal. I was also in the mood specifically for rigatoni. I quickly did a search for rigatoni alla norma recipes and found a real winner on Epicurious. I used this recipe, and followed it pretty closely except for a few modifications.
Rigatoni alla Norma (adapted from this recipe)
- 2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 cup olive oil (I didn’t use a cup, I basically just coated the bottom of the pan as needed)
- 1 medium onion, chopped (I also added 2 large garlic cloves)
- 2 1/2 cups marinara sauce (homemade or use 24 to 26 ounce bottled sauce)
- 1 pound dried rigatoni
- 1 pound cold mozzarella (preferably salted fresh), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- About 1/2 cup of fresh basil, chopped
Toss eggplant with 2 teaspoon salt in a colander. Drain 30 minutes. Rinse, then squeeze out excess liquid and pat dry.
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Fry eggplant in 3 batches, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. (I did use the 3 batch method, but it took forever and next time I’d probably just cook it all at once in a big enough skillet making sure not to crowd the pan)
Discard all but 2 tablespoons oil from skillet, then sauté onion (and garlic) with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper until golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in sauce and eggplant and simmer 5 minutes (I also added about 1/3-1/2 cup of pasta water to make the mixture a bit looser- the sauce was very thick)
Meanwhile, cook rigatoni in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (2 tablespoons salt for 6 quart water) until al dente, then drain. Stir together pasta, sauce, most of the basil, and half of mozzarella in pot. Transfer to a 3-quart baking dish and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and basil. Bake until cheese is melted and golden in spots, about 45 minutes. (I baked this for about 20 minutes and it was perfect). Let stand 5 minutes before serving.