Pasta alla Norma is a classic Sicilian pasta dish made with an eggplant ragu. This is a comforting vegetarian pasta that is easy to make at home. Start with simple, good-quality ingredients like DOP San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, eggplant, and basil.

A white ceramic pasta bowl filled with Pasta alla Norma eggplant ragu on rigatoni.

Eggplant pasta is a classic Sicilian recipe that makes a comforting, inexpensive, and naturally meatless dish. 

Let’s find out how to make this delicious Sicilian eggplant pasta dish! 

What is Pasta alla Norma? 

Pasta alla Norma is a pasta dish from Catania, Sicily that is made with an eggplant ragu. The dish is named after the opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini. 

Made with traditional Mediterranean flavors, Pasta alla Norma is simple yet flavorful and delicious. 

One theory about the origins of pasta alla Norma is that it was created in the 19th century by a chef who worked for the Prince of Salina. The chef, named Nino Bergese, was from Naples and he created the dish for the Prince of Salina, who was a fan of the opera Norma.

Sicilian Dishes 

Though we often think of “Italian food” as one style, the cuisine varies greatly from region to region. Sicilian dishes often feature eggplants, such as in caponata and this eggplant ragu pasta. 

Two eggplants, a can of san marzano dop tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and herbs on a wood cutting board.

What You’ll Need

  • Olive oil 
  • garlic 
  • oregano
  • red pepper flakes 
  • eggplant 
  • Tomatoes. Choose fresh tomatoes in the summer and canned DOP San Marzanos when you don’t have ripe tomatoes. 
  • Fresh herbs. Basil or Italian parsley is best. 
  • Cheese. Traditionally only ricotta salata (salted ricotta made with sheep’s milk cheese) should be used. However, feel free to use Parmigiano. 
Cubes of baked eggplant on a parchment-lined baking sheet. This roasted eggplant will be used for eggplant ragu.

How to Make Eggplant Ragu 

Eggplant is traditionally sliced and then fried to make Pasta alla Norma. However, to simplify and speed up the process cooks often bake or roast the eggplant. I like to roast the eggplant cubes while making the sauce to speed things up. This simple eggplant pasta sauce is just a step beyond traditional San Marzano Marinara

A white Staub pot filled with Sicilian pasta alla norma recipe with eggplant ragu and tomatoes. The pot sits on a marble countertop with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese on the side.

What Type of Pasta to Use 

Pasta alla Normal is traditionally made with penne or spaghetti. However, this eggplant sauce is wonderful on any shape of pasta. Here we have used rigatoni. 

Variations 

For added protein, add cooked Italian sausage or white beans at the end. My family loves the addition of capes for an extra boost of flavor. 

Storing and Reheating Leftovers 

This vegetarian pasta is still tasty the next day. Once cooled, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. I like to reheat it in an oven-safe dish topped with cheese. 

You can also make the eggplant ragu one day in advance, refrigerate it, and then add it to the cooked pasta the next day. 

What to Serve with Pasta alla Norma 

This plant-based pasta can be served as a “primi piato” or first course, or an entree. I serve it as a main dish with a salad. An Italian or Mediterranean salad such as Caprese is a great choice. 

Yield: Serves 4-6

Pasta alla Norma

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Pasta alla Norma is a classic Sicilian pasta dish made with eggplant ragu. This comforting vegetarian pasta with roasted eggplant comes together easily with just a few simple ingredients.

Pasta alla normal eggplant ragu on a white ceramic plate.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½-2 pounds eggplant (about 2 globe eggplants)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 28 oz. San Marzano tomatoes (DOP)
  • 3/4 pound pasta
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup ricotta salata

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment (or olive oil).
  2. Cut the eggplants into 1-inch cubes. Toss with olive oil (or coat with olive oil cooking spray). Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes, turning halfway, until very tender. Roasted eggplant cubes on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  3. While the eggplant roasts, start the Pasta alla Norma tomato sauce. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for one minute. Do not let the garlic burn or brown. Add the oregano stir in. Garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano in olive oil in a large skillet.
  4. Add the entire can of tomatoes including the sauce, and stir in. Use a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes. San Marzano tomatoes in a large skillet.
  5. Simmer for 15 minutes, until thickened a bit. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Tomato sauce for pasta alla norma simmers on the stove.
  6. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water, according to the package directions.
  7. Add the roasted eggplant into the tomato sauce and stir to combine. An overhead photo of eggplant ragu in a skillet.
  8. When pasta is al dente, drain and immediately combine with the eggplant ragu.
  9. Serve warm topped with fresh basil and cheese. Pasta alla normal eggplant ragu on a white ceramic plate.

Notes

Ricotta Salata is the cheese traditionally used for Pasta alla Norma. It's a Sicilian salted and aged ricotta that works well for grating. You substitute pecorino or Parmigiano, or a vegan Parmesan if needed.

This eggplant ragu sauce can be made one day in advance.

Fresh tomatoes can be used instead of canned. Use 1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, chopped (about 4 cups).

Though not traditional, my family likes to add capers to our Pasta alla Norma at the end.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1 bowl
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 265Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gSodium: 162mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 8gSugar: 11gProtein: 9g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your favorite calculator.