Pasta alla Norma – Roasted Eggplant with Tomato Sauce (Best Recipe!)

Pasta alla Norma with Roasted Eggplant.

This creamy eggplant Pasta alla Norma is made with carrots, celery, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and roasted eggplant. Great lunch or dinner idea that takes less than an hour to make!

Why You Will Love This Recipe

Quick recipe. All you need to do is fry up some veggies which doesn’t take as much time as cooking meat does. The entire dish is brought together within an hour!

Easy instructions. The process of making this roasted eggplant pasta is straightforward and doesn’t require any special knowledge. You can make this Pasta alla Norma even if you are completely new to cooking!

Delicious flavors. Marinara sauce on its own can taste plain, but this recipe adds new dimensions to the flavor profile by combining the sweetness of onions and carrots with the slight bitterness of celery to balance out the sweetness. The tomato paste that is flavored with basil, oregano, and bay leaf adds a sour taste to the dish which goes great with the sweet and bitter flavors other ingredients bring. Eggplant is the cherry on top of your plate that finishes out this otherwise incomplete ensemble of flavors and ingredients.

Substitutes and Swaps

Vegan Pasta alla Norma

To make vegan roasted eggplant pasta you will need to substitute chicken stock with vegetable stock, and cheese with vegan cheese. The rest of the ingredients stay the same!

Mirepoix

Mirepoix is the base for many soups and sauces (like this Bolognese sauce) including the Pasta alla Norma base sauce. Mirepoix consists of three ingredients: carrots, onions, and celery. I tried making pasta with roasted eggplant without mirepoix as many recipes suggest and the results were less than satisfactory. The flavor was bland and sour. In my opinion, mirepoix is necessary for Pasta alla Norma to balance out the sourness of pureed tomatoes and add the overall sweetness to the dish without any processed sugars. You may leave this part out but mirepoix is what makes this recipe unique and full of flavor.

Eggplant

You definitely don’t want to leave out the eggplant from this recipe. However, you might ask whether it is alright to fry your eggplant in a frying pan. You can fry your eggplant, but this method will yield mushier eggplant as you will need to stir in order to cook all the pieces. Baked eggplant works better as you can roast it as it’s in the oven and the sheet pan provides a lot of surface for the eggplant to spread which minimizes the need for stirring. Less stirring, less mush!

Fresh Basil

Fresh basil is the star of the dish, however, I understand that you might not have basil plants in your garden or kitchen. If you don’t have access to fresh basil you may substitute it with dried basil but the flavor will definitely differ.

Sieved Tomatoes (Tomato Passata)

You can use crushed canned tomatoes for this recipe if you prefer. I am using tomato passata which is pureed tomatoes that are sieved so there are no chunks. The more substance there is in your canned tomatoes the better. There are kinds of boxed tomato sauces that are watery but you want to avoid those ones as they have more liquid and less actual tomatoes in them.

Fresh Tomatoes

Fresh tomatoes are less sour than the tomato puree, so adding some fresh chunks of tomato will help balance out the sourness and will add some bite to the sauce! Home-grown tomatoes have the best taste while store-bought often have very bland flavors. You can leave out the tomatoes if you wish and substitute it with more tomato puree.

Ingredients for Pasta alla Norma

Ingredients for Pasta alla norma
  • 1 standard pack of spaghetti (use gluten-free if needed)
  • 3 medium eggplants
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 2 large (or 3 medium-small) celery sticks
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 medium tomatoes, fresh
  • 2 ½ cups of chicken broth, if you don’t have broth you can use a bouillon cube dissolved in water
  • 2 ½ cups (500 ml) tomato passata (sieved tomatoes)
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh basil for serving
  • Cheese for serving

How to Make Roasted Eggplant Pasta alla Norma

Step 1 – Prepare the Eggplant

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Chop the eggplant into 1-inch cubes and spread onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the eggplant along with some olive oil. Rub the eggplant so that the oil spreads evenly. No need to let the eggplant “sweat” here! Just pop it into the oven and let it bake for 20 minutes. Flip the eggplant with a spatula and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Take the eggplant out and set it aside.

Step 2 – Mirepoix

While the eggplant is baking, preheat a frying pan on a medium heat setting. Chop the onion into small pieces, then do the same with carrots and celery. Add some oil to the frying pan and fry the onions for a few minutes until translucent. Then, add chopped carrots and celery and let them fry for a few minutes. You can bring the fire a bit up so that the veggies brown a bit. Browning adds more flavor to the dish! Add chopped garlic and season with some salt and pepper.

Tip: add your salt gradually. You can add some salt at the beginning of the cooking process, in the middle, and close to the end. This way your dish will not taste too salty as the salt will have time to incorporate and blend into the dish.

Step 3 – Add the Tomatoes & the Stock

Chop your fresh tomatoes into small pieces and add them to the pan with mirepoix (onion, celery, and carrots). Then, add 2 ½ cups of chicken stock to the pan and let the veggies simmer on high heat for 5-10 minutes until most of the chicken stock evaporates. Finally, add the tomato passata (sieved tomatoes).

Tip: Pour a little bit of water into the cans/boxes of the tomato puree after you poured the contents into the pan. Extra water will help get the rest of the tomato paste into the pan. The extra water is going to evaporate anyway!

Step 4 – Season and Simmer

Add the dried basil, oregano, bay leaves, and some more salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer on medium-high heat for 15 minutes. After that fold in the eggplant. If you cool your eggplant first, then it won’t get as mushy, however, you can incorporate it hot as well (if you are impatient like I am!).

Tip: don’t cover the sauce with a lid as it will make the evaporation process impossible.

Step 5 – Boil Pasta and Serve

Boil the preferred amount of pasta. You need to boil your pasta on a rolling boil for about 11 minutes. To be sure you can taste your pasta after 11 minutes and turn the heat off or give it a few more minutes to soften more. Strain the water and mix the pasta into the eggplant sauce. Serve with some fresh basil and grated cheese to maximize the experience!

Baked Eggplant Pasta alla Norma

Tip: never add oil to the pasta water. Adding oil doesn’t make any difference in taste but it rather makes it hard for the sauce to coat the pasta.

Tips for Success

– If you want your eggplant to be drier you can salt it after cutting it into small cubes and place it into a strainer for about 20-30 minutes. The salt will draw the extra liquid out from the eggplant and you will get drier results with less mush.

Use good quality tomato paste. There are some brands that offer cheap tomato passata but oftentimes the product had a lot of added water and is very liquid. You may use that but you will get better flavors if you go for a rather thicker type.

Don’t skip the fresh basil! You will be surprised how much difference that one ingredient makes.

– Use Parmesan cheese for the best flavor.

– If you don’t have chicken or vegetable stock you can use a bouillon cube instead. You will need 1 bouillon cube for 2 ½ cups of water. You can add more if you prefer.

Salt as you go. If you add all of your salt at the end the sauce will have a saltier taste than if you let the salt cook into the dish as you go.

Let the eggplant cool before adding it to the sauce as it will be easier to get them off the sheet pan without them breaking apart.

– To get even creamier eggplant pasta try soaking the eggplant in milk overnight. This will make your eggplant creamy, and tender, and will rid it of any bitter taste it might have.

You can experiment and try adding zucchini, sausage, cherry tomatoes, spinach, fresh mozzarella, or ricotta to your dish!

– If you prefer your eggplant pasta spicy, add some cayenne pepper during cooking.

Eggplant Pasta alla Norma

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Peel Eggplant?

There is no need to peel the eggplant for this recipe! As you are roasting the eggplant the peel will soften enough for you to be able to chew it easily.

Can You Eat Eggplant Skin?

Yes, you can! It is harder to chew eggplant skin if it is undercooked but if you cook it well then you don’t even notice it’s there!

Should I Remove Eggplant Seeds?

There is no need to remove eggplant seeds.

Is It OK if Eggplant Seeds are Black?

If the seeds in your eggplant are black it means that the eggplant has gone bad. You should not be using eggplant with black seeds in it!

Can You Put Eggplant in Pasta Sauce?

Absolutely! I mean, it is an eggplant pasta sauce recipe, so, go ahead and toss that eggplant on your pasta!

What is the Best Way to Cook Eggplant?

I think the tastiest way to prepare eggplant is definitely roasting. Roasting allows for that delicious browning that adds a savory flavor to your dish. You can roast your eggplant in a frying pan or in the oven but I find that roasting the eggplant in the oven yields better results as a sheet pan has more surface which allows for the eggplant to be spread out and minimizes the need to stir which in turn allows for less mushy eggplant.

Why is it Called Pasta alla Norma?

It is believed that the dish got its name from the opera by Vincenzo Bellini when a Catanese comedy writer Nino Martoglio exclaimed “This is a real masterpiece (Norma)” after tasting it.

Is It Better to Soak Eggplant in Milk or Salt?

While both milk and salt serve the same purpose of extracting the bitterness from eggplant, milk is a better way to prepare the eggplant for frying. However, a milky bath takes much longer than a simple salt treatment. If you want creamy and tender eggplant – soak it in milk overnight. If you want to simply get rid of bitterness then “sweat” the eggplant in salt for about 30 minutes.

Is It Necessary to Soak Eggplant?

If you are using older eggplants you might want to soak them in salt or milk before using them. However, if the eggplants are fresh you should be able to cook them without soaking and still get good results!

Pasta alla Norma with Roasted Eggplant.

Pasta alla Norma – Eggplant and Tomato Sauce Pasta

This recipe uses celery and carrots which gives this recipe deep flavor that the classic Pasta alla Norma lacks. Enjoy!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6 portions
Calories 450 kcal

Equipment

  • 1 sheet pan
  • 1 cutting board
  • 1 large frying pan
  • 1 large pot for boiling pasta

Ingredients
  

  • 1 standard pack of soaghetti use gluten free if necessary
  • 3 medium eggplants
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 2 large celery sticks if your celery is small, use 3-4 sticks
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 medium tomatoes fresh
  • cups chicken broth use boullion cube dissolved in water if don't have broth
  • 2½ cups (500 ml) tomato passata
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh basil for serving
  • grated cheese for serving

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Chop the eggplant into 1-inch cubes and spread onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the eggplant along with some olive oil. Rub the eggplant so that the oil spreads evenly. No need to let the eggplant “sweat” here! Just pop it into the oven and let it bake for 20 minutes. Flip the eggplant with a spatula and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Take the eggplant out and set it aside.
  • While the eggplant is baking, preheat a frying pan on a medium heat setting. Chop the onion into small pieces, then do the same with carrots and celery. Add some oil to the frying pan and fry the onions for a few minutes until translucent. Then, add chopped carrots and celery and let them fry for a few minutes. You can bring the fire a bit up so that the veggies brown a bit. Browning adds more flavor to the dish! Add chopped garlic and season with some salt and pepper.
  • Chop your fresh tomatoes into small pieces and add them to the pan with mirepoix (onion, celery, and carrots). Then, add 2 ½ cups of chicken stock to the pan and let the veggies simmer on high heat for 5-10 minutes until most of the chicken stock evaporates. Finally, add the tomato passata (sieved tomatoes).
  • Add the dried basil, oregano, bay leaves, and some more salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer on medium-high heat for 15 minutes. After that fold in the eggplant. If you cool your eggplant first, then it won’t get as mushy, however, you can incorporate it hot as well (if you are impatient like I am!).
  • Boil the preferred amount of pasta. You need to boil your pasta on a rolling boil for about 11 minutes. To be sure you can taste your pasta after 11 minutes and turn the heat off or give it a few more minutes to soften more. Strain the water and mix the pasta into the eggplant sauce. Serve with some fresh basil and grated cheese to maximize the experience!

Notes

– If you want your eggplant to be drier you can salt it after cutting it into small cubes and place it into a strainer for about 20-30 minutes. The salt will draw the extra liquid out from the eggplant and you will get drier results with less mush.
Use good quality tomato paste. There are some brands that offer cheap tomato passata but oftentimes the product had a lot of added water and is very liquid. You may use that but you will get better flavors if you go for a rather thicker type.
Don’t skip the fresh basil! You will be surprised how much difference that one ingredient makes.
– Use Parmesan cheese for the best flavor.
– If you don’t have chicken or vegetable stock you can use a bouillon cube instead. You will need 1 bouillon cube for 2 ½ cups of water. You can add more if you prefer.
Salt as you go. If you add all of your salt at the end the sauce will have a saltier taste than if you let the salt cook into the dish as you go.
Let the eggplant cool before adding it to the sauce as it will be easier to get them off the sheet pan without them breaking apart.
– To get even creamier eggplant pasta try soaking the eggplant in milk overnight. This will make your eggplant creamy, and tender, and will rid it of any bitter taste it might have.
You can experiment and try adding zucchini, sausage, cherry tomatoes, spinach, fresh mozzarella, or ricotta to your dish!
– If you prefer your eggplant pasta spicy, add some cayenne pepper during cooking.
Keyword Pasta alla Norma, Pasta with Eggplant and Tomato Sauce, Roasted Eggplant with Romato Sauce

What’s Next?

Have you made Pasta alla Norma at home? I would love to see! You can tag me on Instagram @natashashome_ and I would love to share your creations in my stories. If you have any questions, leave them in the comment section below!

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