Pasta alla norma – it might sound really fancy, but it’s actually just a super simple but tasty tomato and eggplant sauce stirred through pasta. Add a pinch of chili flakes and some oozy mozzarella for a vegetarian pasta dish with a meaty texture. Even the most hard core meat eater in your life will enjoy it!
Pasta alla norma… it sounds so fancy, but it isn’t. You can always depend on the Italians when it comes to super simple recipes that taste way more delicious than the sum of their parts.
More simple and delicious traditional Italian recipes: 12-minute cherry tomato pasta (which means ‘hurry hurry’ – isn’t that cool?) / a classic pasta carbonara that’s basic in every way except how tasty it is / this crowd pleasing easy Italian apple cake, otherwise known as ‘torta di mele’
Why should you make this?
Pasta alla norma (sometimes called pasta melanzane) is a tomato and eggplant pasta based on a traditional Sicilian recipe. What’s the secret of its success, other than the fact that it’s been handed down through the generations?
- I always think of eggplant or aubergine as a ‘meaty’ vegetable. So it’s great for ‘meat free Mondays’, or for anyone wanting to eat a more plant based diet.
- It goes without saying that it’s also a great recipe for vegetarians. Or vegans! Just skip the cheese and use an egg free pasta and you’ve made this a vegan eggplant pasta recipe!
- It’s on the table in just over half an hour.
- It’s a simple recipe that the whole family will enjoy. It’s made mostly with pantry ingredients. Grab an eggplant/aubergine from the shops or market and you’re probably good to go!
- The rich tomato sauce is healthy, delicious and versatile. Traditionally, pasta alla norma was made with fried eggplant, but I simply saute the eggplant to make my version. You can use the sauce to make this eggplant lasagna if you prefer. Or pour it over baked or grilled meat or fish. Or even use it as a pizza sauce! (my favourite)
Fun fact: Pasta alla norma is named after an opera – ‘Norma’ – composed by Sicilian Vicenzo Bellini.
What ingredients you need
TO PREPARE THE EGGPLANT/AUBERGINE:
- A medium eggplant/aubergine (chopped into small cubes that will cook easily).
- Plenty of good quality olive oil to cook the eggplant in.
- Crushed garlic and a pinch of crushed chilis (or spicy red pepper flakes) to stir into the cooked eggplant. You’ll use a bit more garlic than you think you need (a key to success for any tomato-based pasta!)
TO MAKE THE SAUCE:
- Canned tomatoes. Use whole tinned tomatoes rather than chopped/crushed, as they tend to be better quality. I recommend a quality brand such as San Marzano or any organic brand. Just snip with scissors inside the can! Diced tomatoes work too, of course, if that’s what you have.
- A drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a sweetener (either sugar or honey) to add balance to the sauce while it’s simmering.
TO ADD TO THE SAUCE AT THE END:
- Salt and pepper
- Lots of fresh basil to stir into the sauce.
TO ASSEMBLE THE MEAL:
- Pasta (of course). I like to use penne. Spaghetti, tagliatelle and rigatoni all work well too, but use whichever type of pasta noodle you happen to have or like.
- Mozzarella. I tear up 1 ball of mozzarella, but of course you can use grated mozzarella instead if you like.
- Pasta cooking water for extra silkiness in the sauce (this is the secret to extra tasty pasta dishes!).
- Parmesan and extra basil for sprinkling over the top just before serving.
How to make the perfect pasta alla norma!
The step-by-step guide below should help you make the recipe perfectly first time. Scroll down to the end for the full recipe including ingredient amounts.
- Begin by dicing the eggplant/aubergine. Then grab a cast iron pot or deep skillet and saute the eggplant cubes slowly for 10 to 15 minutes in more olive oil than you would think sensible!
- Add the garlic and chili flakes to the pan.
- Add the balsamic vinegar and honey, then simmer the eggplant sauce until perfectly tender. Do make sure it’s properly cooked. Under-cooked eggplant is (quite literally) hard to swallow!
- At this point, season well with salt and pepper and stir in most of the basil.
- While your yummy tomato eggplant sauce is simmering, bring a pot of well salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta. Al dente is best!
- Drain the pasta, but remember to save some of the cooking water. Just put a bowl or jug under the colander when you drain the pasta into the sink (I’ve forgotten to do this so many times!).
- Fold the cooked pasta into the sauce. Add some of the pasta water you saved to loosen up the consistency of the dish. The pasta will be perfectly silky and coated in the delicious eggplant pasta sauce!
- Finally, rip the mozzarella into the pan and stir through. Serve your delicious pasta alla norma into bowls and top with parmesan and extra basil.
How to make the dish your own
This recipe (and especially the eggplant sauce) is very versatile. You can easily adapt it to your tastes!
- You can skip the chili if you like. It actually isn’t in a traditional Pasta Alla Norma – I just like that the dish is lightly spicy.
- Use a different kind of cheese. Ricotta cheese or pecorino cheese works well instead of the mozzarella. I think crumbled feta cheese would be really delicious, too.
- I tend to use large pasta shapes like large penne or pappardelle for this dish because the sauce is quite heavy. But of course it’s OK to use whatever is your favorite pasta. Tagliatelle or fettucine would work well, as would pasta twists or shells.
- Make a pasta bake instead! I’ve included instructions in the ‘notes’ section of the recipe below.
- Leftover eggplant sauce? Freeze it for another time! Pour it over meat or fish. Or use it as a yummy and nutritious eggplant pizza sauce. My top tip? Make double and use it to make this incredible vegetarian eggplant lasagna.
How to serve it
My favourite way to serve this filling eggplant pasta is very simply – by itself with some green salad.
If you’re feeling particularly hungry, you can also serve it with some garlic bread or this 2-minute toasted bread with olive oil and salt. If you have a bit of extra time, I can’t recommend this quick homemade focaccia bread enough!
If you’re making this for guests (it’s a great option for easy entertaining!), why not serve alongside some colorful Mediterranean roast vegetables?
Or take a look at all my easy side dishes for more ideas.
More things to know (recipe FAQ)
No. Most eggplant isn’t bitter like it sometimes used to be so I don’t see the need to ‘salt’ it before cooking it. You don’t need to peel it, either. In fact the peel contains healthy antioxidants! It also helps the eggplant to keep its shape and stops it from becoming mushy when cooked.
Yes, of course. If you have leftover aubergine pasta, it’ll keep for 3-5 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Reheat for a few minutes in the microwave (I suggest at 80% power) with an extra drizzle of water to stop it drying out.
However, I suggest only cooking as much pasta as you need for one meal (I allow around 2-2.5 ounces/65-70 grams of dry pasta per person). If there’s any eggplant tomato sauce left, store it by itself in the fridge. Or freeze it in glass containers or zip lock bags for up to 3 months. You can either make pasta alla norma again, or use the leftover sauce as a sauce for meat or a yummy pizza topping! (Don’t forget to add feta!)
This pasta is also pretty good served cold. I’ve taken it to work for lunch several times!
Got a glut of eggplant that you don’t know what to do with? I highly recommend trying this Greek baked eggplant with tomato and feta, too. You won’t believe how delicious it is!
More easy pasta recipes
- 15-minute creamy pesto chicken with mushrooms and parmesan (I usually serve this with tagliatelle!)
- If you’re loving the Mediterranean style of this recipe, try this 20-minute lemony Mediterranean tuna pasta too.
- 6-ingredient sausage pappardelle bolognese (recipe includes a stove top or pressure cooker version)
- creamy chicken and mushroom pappardelle (creamy and comforting!)
- quick tagliatelle in a cherry tomato, chorizo and cream sauce
- lemony asparagus and prosciutto pasta (this one’s great for spring!)
Or take a look at all my pasta recipes.
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Pasta Alla Norma (Tomato And Eggplant Pasta)
Equipment (affiliate links)
Ingredients (UK/Australia? Click below for grams/ml)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium eggplant (aubergine) cut into small cubes (about 1cm²)
- 4 garlic cloves crushed or sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed chilis (or 1/2 teaspoon if you like)
- 28 ounces whole tomatoes (two cans)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar (or honey)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- 10 ounces pasta I used a variant of penne, but any medium-sized pasta shapes will do
- 1 ball of mozzarella
- freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve
- Heat up the olive oil, then stir in the eggplant, making sure it all gets coated in oil. Let cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten to fifteen minutes.4 tablespoons olive oil, 1 medium eggplant
- Add the garlic and chili flakes to the pan and cook, stirring, for a couple more minutes.4 garlic cloves, 1/4 teaspoon crushed chilis
- Add the tomatoes to the pan, then crush them and break them up with a wooden spoon. Pour in the balsamic vinegar, then add the sugar/honey. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the eggplant is nice and soft.28 ounces whole tomatoes, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar
- At the end of the cooking time, season well and stir in most of the basil.salt and pepper, 1 bunch fresh basil
- Meanwhile, boil the pasta according to the packet instructions (until al dente is best). Then drain, reserving some of the water.10 ounces pasta
- Add the pasta to the sauce and toss until well coated. Add enough of the reserved cooking water to make the dish nice and smooth and ‘silky'.
- Rip the mozzarella into the pan and stir again briefly.1 ball of mozzarella
- Serve out into bowls immediately. Top with grated parmesan and the remaining fresh basil.freshly grated parmesan cheese