BM# 44: A-Z Cooking Series -- Around the World in 30 days
Country: I for ItalyDish: Pasta Alla Norma (Pasta in Spicy Eggplant & Tomato Sauce)
We are going back to Europe, to Italy today. Italy seemed an obvious choice and my son thinks he's half Italian because his favorite foods are pizza and pasta. But come to think of it, I like Italian food too. What's not to like about pasta, cheese and pizza.
Italy also is on my bucket list not just to enjoy the local food but also to tour the beautiful, historic and touristic places. Many hollywood movies are shot in Italy, I especially remember the beautiful locations in George Clooney's 'The American' movie. Lot of Indian movies have shown us Venice, making it a definite stop in Italy while we are there. Oh, how I wish, my dreams can come true.
Italian cuisine is characterized by its simplicity with many dishes having only 4~8 ingredients. Italian cooks rely on fresh, quality ingredients rather than elaborate preparation. Ingredients and dishes vary by region. Cheese and wine are a major part of the cuisine.
I decided to make a typical pasta dish from Italy today. 'Pasta Alla Norma' is a classic Sicilian dish from Catania, an Italian city. It's made with tomatoes, fried eggplant and ricotta salata cheese. As an eggplant lover, I had this dish on my to-make list for a very very long time and finally this is the time to try it out.
Recipe adapted New York Times.
Long Pasta like Spaghetti/ Angel Hair or Bucatini - 1lb.
Eggplant - 1 large globe or 3~4 Japanese long ones, cut into ½" thick slices
Dried red chili - 3~4
Tomatoes - 1 14oz. can of diced tomatoes or 3~4 large ripe
Garlic - 2~3 cloves, finely chopped
Dry Oregano - 1tsp (or 1tbsp fresh)
Parsley or Basil - ½cup, chopped
Ricotta Salata or Pecorino Romano - ½cup, grated
- Cook sliced eggplant in batches in 2~3tbsp of olive oil until the eggplants are cooked through and nicely browned. Sprinkle with some salt. Remove onto a plate and repeat with the remaining eggplant slices.
- In the same pan, heat 2tbsp olive oil on medium heat, add the garlic and chilies, and cook till the garlic turns golden, make sure not to burn garlic.
- Add the tomatoes and oregano, along with salt and pepper; cook until sauce thickens and is not too dry, stirring occasionally. Add the fried eggplant slices to the sauce and reheat for a minute.
- In the meantime, cook the pasta till tender but not mushy. Drain and add to the tomato sauce.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning, then top it with parsley or basil and grated cheese. Serve hot!!