Make the kitchen the center of your home with this comforting Pasta alla Norma recipe, straight from beloved Chef Lidia Bastianich’s comprehensive cookbook: Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Great Italian Cook.
Lidia is an Emmy award-winning television host, best-selling cookbook author and restaurateur. Her cookbook is the ultimate master class: a beautifully produced definitive guide to Italian cooking, coauthored with her daughter, Tanya, and covering everything from ingredients to techniques to tools, plus more than 400 delectable recipes. Teaching has always been Lidia’s passion, and in this book, she gives us the full benefit of that passion and of her deep, comprehensive understanding of what it takes to create delicious Italian meals.
Ziti alla Norma (Ziti with Roasted Eggplant and Ricotta Cheese)
Recipe courtesy of Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine, by Lidia Bastianich
Yield: 6 servings
1 pound ziti
2 large firm eggplants (about 2 pounds total)
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 jars (25 oz each) Lidia’s Chunky Eggplant Tomato Sauce
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 cup freshly grated Grana Padano
1 cup fresh basil leaves, shredded
8 ounces (1 cup) fresh ricotta cheese or packaged whole-milk ricotta cheese
Trim the stems from the eggplants. Remove strips of peel about 1 inch wide from the eggplants, leaving about half the peel intact. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes, and toss in a large bowl with the 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Dump into a colander, and let drain for 1 hour. Rinse the eggplant under cool running water, drain thoroughly, and pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with half the olive oil. Turn the eggplant cubes onto the baking sheet, toss to coat with oil, and spread them out in an even layer. Bake until the eggplant is very tender and browned, about 25 minutes. Turn and stir the eggplant cubes gently once or twice during baking so they cook evenly.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat for the ziti. Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Scatter in the garlic, and cook, shaking the pan, until golden, about 3 minutes. Pour in tomato-eggplant sauce, add the pepper flakes, and season lightly with salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir the ziti into the boiling water. Return to a boil, stirring frequently. When it is al dente, drain the pasta and return it to the pot over low heat. Pour in about half of the sauce, tossing lightly to coat the pasta. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in ½ cup of the grated cheese and the basil. Add half of the roasted eggplant and toss, then add the ricotta by heaping teaspoonfuls, stirring it gently into the pasta; you want the ricotta to warm, but you do not want it to blend with the sauce completely.
Plate the pasta, and spoon the reserved sauce over each serving; then divide the remaining baked eggplant on top of each pasta plate. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, and serve.