Pasta alla Norma Recipe

We’re heading back to Sicily with Pasta alla Norma, a delicious and satisfying vegetarian pasta dish featuring eggplant, marinara, and basil. This classic Sicilian dish is perfect for late summer or early fall when eggplants are in season, but it’s hearty enough to enjoy year-round. If you love eggplant Parmesan, you’ll adore this lighter, roasted eggplant version of Pasta alla Norma. Let’s dive in!


To create this flavorful Pasta alla Norma, you will need:

  • Marinara Sauce:
    • 1 batch Super Simple Marinara Sauce, or 2 cups (16 ounces) store-bought marinara
  • Eggplant:
    • 2 medium eggplants (about 2 ¼ pounds total)
    • ¼ cup + 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • ¼ teaspoon fine salt, more to taste
  • Pasta:
    • 8 ounces rigatoni, ziti, or spaghetti
  • Herbs and Spices:
    • ½ cup chopped fresh basil, plus a handful more small basil leaves or torn leaves for garnish
    • ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
    • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Cheese:
    • ¾ cup (1.5 ounces) finely grated ricotta salata and/or Parmesan cheese

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Prepare the Marinara Sauce:
    • If making your own marinara, cook the sauce according to the instructions. If it’s done before you’re ready to assemble the dish, cover the pot and keep it warm over very low heat.
    • If using store-bought marinara, warm it in a pot over medium-low heat while you cook the pasta.
  2. Preheat the Oven:
    • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
  3. Prepare and Roast the Eggplant:
    • Use a vegetable peeler to shave off long alternating strips of eggplant peel, making the eggplants look striped like zebras.
    • Slice the eggplants into ½-inch thick rounds, discarding the end pieces.
    • Place the eggplant slices on the lined baking sheets. Brush the rounds with olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt and plenty of pepper.
    • Roast until deeply golden and tender, about 35 to 45 minutes, flipping after 20 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Cook the Pasta:
    • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions.
    • Reserve some pasta cooking water before draining (about ½ cup should be plenty), then return the pasta to the pot.
  5. Combine and Serve:
    • When the eggplant is done and the marinara is finished cooking (or warmed through, if using store-bought), gently stir the roasted eggplant into the sauce.
    • Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil, fresh basil, red pepper flakes (skip if you don’t like spice, or load it up if you do), and crush the dried oregano between your fingers as you drop it in.
    • Add the pasta to the sauce with a couple of tablespoons of the reserved pasta cooking water, and gently stir it in.
    • Add about two-thirds of the cheese, reserving the rest for garnish. Season to taste with additional salt (I usually add ¼ teaspoon more) and black pepper. You can add a bit more of the reserved pasta cooking water to loosen up the sauce, if desired.
  6. Garnish and Serve:
    • Divide the pasta between four bowls. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the individual servings, followed by some extra fresh basil. For added richness, drizzle the servings lightly with olive oil.
    • Enjoy! Leftover pasta will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for 4 to 5 days.

Storage Tips

  • Refrigeration: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. Reheat gently on the stovetop or in the microwave before serving.

Add-On Suggestions

  • Protein: Add grilled chicken or shrimp for extra protein.
  • Vegetables: Include additional roasted vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, or cherry tomatoes for more variety.
  • Vegan Option: Use vegan cheese alternatives or omit the cheese entirely.


Q: Can I use another type of pasta? A: Yes, you can use any pasta you prefer, such as penne, fusilli, or even fettuccine.

Q: How do I prevent the eggplant from becoming too oily? A: Brushing the eggplant slices with olive oil instead of soaking them helps control the oil absorption, keeping the dish lighter.

Q: Can I make this dish ahead of time? A: Yes, you can prepare the components (marinara sauce and roasted eggplant) in advance and combine them with freshly cooked pasta when ready to serve.

Health Considerations

Pasta alla Norma is a nutritious dish rich in vegetables and fresh herbs. Adjust the cheese and oil quantities to fit your dietary preferences and enjoy this classic Sicilian recipe as part of a balanced diet.

Pasta alla Norma is a delightful and hearty vegetarian dish that brings the flavors of Sicily to your table. Enjoy making and sharing this delicious pasta with family and friends. Buon appetito!