We’re definitely adding Joshua McFadden’s Six Seasons to our list of favorite cookbooks. And this recipe may just be our favorite one (so far) from there! We’ve been getting these gorgeous fairy-tale eggplants from our Farm Share this summer and, not being super experienced eggplant-ers, have been trying new ways to enjoy them. Not only is this recipe a favorite from the cookbook overall, but it’s definitely my current favorite way to eat an eggplant. While we have been making this with the fairy-tales, his original recipe utilized regular globe Italian eggplants, so it certainly can be done and would be more traditional. But we love this with the smaller bites of the fairy-tale eggplants!
I learned as I was writing this (thanks wikipedia!) that this dish used to be called “pasta con le melanzane,” which just meant “pasta with eggplant.” The pasta alla norma moniker refers to the classic opera Norma. As the story goes, a writer Nino Martoglio tasted it and exclaimed, “This is the real Norma,” meaning that the dish was a masterpiece on the scale of the opera. Fun story!
This is a gorgeous summer dish. We used both our eggplants and tomatoes from our Farm Share. Goes great with a glass of red. Or white. You pick! And if you prefer non-spicy, do regular Italian sausage. Keep the Aleppo pepper, it’s delicious here! We’ve made it both ways and prefer the spicy version.
Spicy Pasta alla Norma with Sausage
(Adapted from Six Seasons, by Joshua McFadden)
- 8 fairy-tale eggplants
- Salt & pepper
- 1 tbsp (+) olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed if necessary
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
- 12 oz dried pasta, small shapes
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1/2 cup + crumbled ricotta salata cheese
- To prepare the eggplants, slice the length-wise and then chop into bite-sized pieces. Place in a colander in the sink and toss with salt. Let them sit for > 30 minutes to draw out water. Toss them occasionally while waiting.
- In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic, top with several turns of fresh ground black pepper, and cook for 3-4 minutes, until fragrant, but not yet browned.
- Then add the sausage into the pan and cook, breaking up the sausage as you go, until just beginning to brown, 6-8 minutes. Remove the sausage to the side.
- There should be oil leftover in the pan, but if it looks dry, add some more olive oil. Cook the eggplant, still on medium heat, for another ~5 minutes, until they start to brown. Stir occasionally.
- Now add the tomatoes, oregano, and Aleppo pepper. Turn the heat down slightly to a medium-low. Cook until the tomatoes get soft and smush-able, over 10-15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil to cook the pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the pasta water.
- Return the sausage to the pan and add the pasta. Stir everything together and let the flavors marry together. Add the pecorino and stir to combine well. Add pasta water by the spoonful to make the dish more saucy to your liking. Taste and add salt/pepper/spice as needed.
- Serve with crumbled ricotta salata on top!