Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spaghetti Alla Norma

Being half Sicilian, any recipe from the region is near to my heart. I had to wonder as I made this, though, who Norma was; Wikipedia tells me that the recipe title comes from Bellini's opera of the same name, but I rather prefer to think of Norma as a dear Italian grandmother in her kitchen.  Whomever it's named for, this classic Sicilian sauce always features tomatoes, eggplant, and basil. Try Vegan Gourmet's mozzarella for a soft and fluffy cheese similar to buffalo mozzarella.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds coarsely chopped and peeled tomato*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (1-pound) eggplant
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 12 ounces uncooked spaghetti
  • 6 ounces Vegan Gourmet mozzarella
1. Combine the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat for 30 seconds - the garlic should be just starting to sizzle.

2. Add the tomato and salt; cook for 15 to 25 minutes, until the liquid is evaporated.

3. Peel the eggplant and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (you'll have about 4 cups).  Add the eggplant to the pan; cover, reduce heat, and cook for 15 minutes, until tender.  Stir in the basil and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water for 9 minutes; drain.  Cut the mozzarella into 1/4-inch cubes, and toss together the pasta, mozzarella, and sauce. This dish will be best served immediately.

The flavors in this pasta are perfect with a glass of (vegan) Italian red wine - bonus points if you can find one from a southern region of Italy, such as Sicily or Calabria. 

*To peel the tomatoes, follow these simple steps: score an X in the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife. Add the tomatoes to a pot of boiling water and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute - the skins should be just staring to peel back.  Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Now the skins will slip right off, after which you can core and chop. You should wind up with about 2 cups from 1 and 1/2 pounds tomatoes.

Nutrition Info:
7 servings (1 cup), Calories 329

Tasting Notes:
The spaghetti is perfectly al dente at 9 minutes, and the eggplant and mozzarella are tender little tidbits in each bite. I would like this pasta even better in the summer, in which case I would skip simmering the tomatoes, and just stir chopped pieces in with the basil at the very end. 


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