norma pasta

That’s a Norma! When a recipe became an Opera

It’s easy to find all the elements of this recipe present on the island of Sicily, but what makes it unique is that it found a way to become so important as to be compared to one of the most popular Italian Operas. 

All elements are strong connected with the city of Catania, the most big and vibrant city in the east of Sicily. 

In the last century, a composer from Catania named Vincenzo Bellini became very famous in all of Europe, especially with an Opera called Norma. After that it became common in the citizens’ slang to indicate something made properly. Something made “alla Norma” indicates something made “a regola d’arte” an expression to indicate the right Rules of that Art.

Looks like some important writers and actors were at a common table when Miss Silvia prepared something special for the occasion. After the taste, the exclamation was “Signora, this is a Norma!” 

From that day a recipe already present in the Sicilian way of cooking finally received a name. A respectable name loved by the people.

A summer dish when the aubergine/eggpalnt/milingiani/mulingiani are ready to be harvested, about the strong relation between Sicilian Kitchen and this vegetable we wrote something about Parmigiana here, after that, the other ingredients are just the most common summer ingredients in Sicily.

One mention for another important ingredient: the salty Ricotta cheese. A beautiful way to preserve a delicate cheese is to add salt on it, one of the oldest and most popular ways to preserve it in all of the Mediterranean. 

Prepared with fresh or dry pasta, it’s another masterpiece of Sicilian Culture. 

Here Annarella and Fabio provide our own recipe:


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra if needed
  • 1 aubergine/eggplant and cut into roughly 2cm/¾in cubes or sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 400g tin peeled tomatoes
  • 200g/7oz spaghetti or any kind of short shape pasta (the sauce is very versatile)
  • 10gr Basil leaves
  • Salty ricotta cheese: salted, dried grated on top


  1. Season the aubergine generously with salt, leave it in a colander for 30′ then wash it and dry well. Heat half the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over high heat. Then fry half of the aubergine cubes until golden brown. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside; repeat with the remaining oil and aubergine pieces.
  2. Turn the heat down to medium–low and add the garlic, along with a little more oil if needed. Cook for a minute until soft but not browned (so important!), then add the tomatoes, a pinch salt. Simmer for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring and squashing the tomatoes down with the back of a fork. 
  3. Cook the pasta in a pan after salted water. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water. 
  4. Add the aubergine to the tomatoes, stir and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the drained pasta and a little of the cooking water if you’d like to loosen the sauce.
  5. Serve with torn basil and crumbled ricotta salata on top.