Baked Lasagna alla Norma.
Lasagna alla Norma!
Pasta alla Norma is an original recipe from the city of Catania, in Sicily where it is called “pasta câ Norma”. It is a delicious combination of typically Mediterranean flavors; tomatoes, eggplant and basil. This dish is interesting because the pasta is traditionall dressed with the main ingredients one at a time. First the tomato sauce (normally homemade), then fried eggplant and finally lots of grated ricotta salata and some fresh basil.
(go straight to recipe)
A little alla Norma history!
According to food historians this pasta recipe was named by the Sicilian playwright Nino Martoglio, who is said to have exclaimed “It’s a Norma!” when served with a plate of pasta prepared with tomato sauce, fried eggplant and ricotta salata. He is thought to have used this expression to indicate how good the dish was by comparing it to the famous opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini. Perhaps because Norma was being performed at the opening of the new Massimo Bellini theatre that same evening in Catania. Bellini was, and is, one of Catania’s most famous sons and pasta alla Norma is certainly the most well-known and popular pasta recipe from this part of Sicily.
Although alla Norma is usually served with short pasta tubes such as rigatoni or penne rigate, some people also use spaghetti. What I like to do is to make this recipe for baked lasagna alla Norma. This recipe is different to other types of baked lasagna because instead of béchamel, it includes a ricotta cream. Otherwise the ingredients are the same as the traditional pasta alla Norma.
Ricotta salata is a typical Sicilian cheese which is an essential ingredient in pasta alla Norma. The word ‘ricotta’ means re-cooked and ‘salata’ means salted. Ricotta Salata is cheese made from the whey part of sheep’s milk, which is pressed, salted and aged for at least 90 days. It is milky white in colour with a firm texture and salty taste. However it isn’t easily available outside of Italy.
If you can’t find ricotta salata you can use feta, preferably aged feta. You will need to let the feta dry out a bit before grating it. Just pat it dry with kitchen paper and leave it to dry out at room temperature for a couple of hours.
Whether you use ricotta salata or feta, this unusual yet delicious lasagna recipe is sure to impress your guests. It doesn’t contain meat, so it’s great for vegetarians too. You can prepare it a day in advance and then leave it in the fridge and bake the following day. Leftovers can also be kept in the fridge for a day or two. I think this dish is actually even tastier reheated!
(see the recipe on next page. Just scroll down and click 2)
SHERMAN CHEUNG says
FP Williams says
I just cooked this recipe for dinner. It was nice but insanely rich. If I were to cook it again I would try decreasing the quantity of ricotta and increasing the amount of aubergine (as its flavour gets a bit lost in the mix).
From a practical point of view, I would point out that if you intend to use dried lasagna sheets make sure you are ready to build the lasagna immediately after blanching as they tend stick to each as they cool.
Finally, my wife did not enjoy the goat’s cheese taste that came from the feta (personally I liked it as I am a goat’s cheese fan), if you think that might bother you I would recommend trying to find 100% ewe’s milk feta or real ricotta salata.
Thanks for all your tips and comments. One way to avoid the blanched dried pasta sheets sticking together is to add a little olive oil to the water. Not too much though as the olive oil prevents the pasta from absorbing the sauce. I thought I mentioned that in the recipe, but I now see I haven’t. I will do so. I love goat’s cheese too but, it’s true that not everyone does. However, as you say there are some types of feta made only from sheep milk. Ricotta salata is made from sheep milk so doesn’t have that goat’s cheese flavour. If you give this recipe another try and change the ingredient quantities do let me know how it turns out. All the best from Verona!
Michel Bonnet says
Fantastic recipe of “Lasagna alla Norma”. Delicious sounding.
Similar to the Greek Musaka – maybe?
Questions: How long do I blanch the dry Lasagna sheets – for ? Minutes?
Also, can the recipe be complemented with red Italian wine? somehow? somewhere?
Ricotta Salata is going to be difficult to find here in the UK. So, maybe I’ll opt for Feta. (prefer not to).
In French, it is called “Mondé les Tomatoes”. Nice and easy.
Thank you for all your recipes – they all sound delicious.
All the best.