Pasta alla Norma With a Twist

Pasta alla Norma with a Twist - an easy vegetarian meal perfect for mid-week entertaining
One of my absolute favourite pasta dishes is Pasta alla Norma, a traditional Sicilian dish originally made in the city of Catania. It traditionally consists of pasta served with an eggplant and ricotta cheese sauce. The story goes that back in the 1800’s Nino Martoglio, a Sicilian writer and theatre director, was so impressed when he tasted this dish for the first time he proclaimed it ‘as good as Norma’, the title of a very popular opera at that time.

Pasta all Norma – Why Change a Classic?

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good traditional Pasta alla Norma. However, I always feel it’s a bit lacking in veggies. I love so many other Mediterranean vegetables as well as eggplant and it seems a shame to leave them out. So the first twist on my Pasta alla Norma is that it contains mushrooms, red peppers and zucchini (courgettes) as well. This gives a thick, flavourful sauce chock full of veggies that really hits the spot.

Pasta alla Norma My Way

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The second twist is this – Traditionally Pasta alla Norma is made with penne pasta. Of course this sauce works perfectly well with any pasta you would like to use. However, my favourite way to serve Pasta alla Norma is with Fusilli Lunghi, a curly spaghetti that looks like the cords from the telephones we had when I was a kid.

In my heart of hearts, I prefer Parmesan cheese to ricotta so for a final twist to this recipe I’ve used that instead. I love the sharp flavour Parmesan provides in contrast to milder, creamier ricotta. You can use Parmegiano Reggiano or Gran Padano instead if you prefer.

Pasta alla Norma My Way

A small wedge of any of these Italian cheeses can be expensive but they will keep for absolutely ages well wrapped in the fridge and the flavour is worth the splurge. If you are vegetarian, use a good vegetarian alternative. There are some really flavourful vegetarian and even vegan Parmesan style cheeses out there.

Pasta alla Norma – perfect for relaxed entertaining

Perfect for relaxed entertaining, Pasta alla Norma with a Twist is one of my family’s very favourite Meatless Monday dishes. It’s one of mine too because, aside from a little therapeutic vegetable chopping and simmering, this is a really quick and easy recipe to make. Open a bottle of good red wine, pour some grape juice for the kids, warm up some crusty bread or toss a salad to serve alongside, and dinner is served!

Printable recipe

Pasta alla Norma My Way
Serves: Serves 4
  • 1 pound Fusilli Lunghi (roughly 500 grams)
  • or enough of your favourite pasta to serve 4
  • 3 tablespoons mild olive oil, divided
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 cup mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 eggplant (aubergine)
  • 1 medium zucchini (courgette)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2½ cups plain tomato sauce or passata (sieved tomatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Parmesan cheese to serve
  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
  2. Peel and finely chop the onion.
  3. Cut the eggplant in pieces roughly one inch square.
  4. De-seed the red pepper and cut into pieces roughly one inch square.
  5. Top and tail the zucchini cut it in half lengthwise and then in half moons roughly half a quarter of an inch thick.
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of the mild olive oil in a large deep frying pan (if possible one that has a lid as you’ll need it later) over medium heat.
  7. Sauté the onion for a minute or two and then add the eggplant.
  8. Continue to cook, stirring almost constantly so that the eggplant softens.
  9. You may need to gradually add a bit more oil as eggplant does really absorb it.
  10. Once the eggplant has begun to soften (about 5 to 7 minutes), add the mushrooms, zucchini and red pepper.
  11. Sauté the vegetables until they begin to pick up a bit of colour.
  12. Stir in the tomato sauce or passata as well as the basil and oregano.
  13. Add a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper to taste.
  14. Put the lid on the pan, lower the heat and simmer the sauce for ten to twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. (The longer the better, up to half an hour.)
  15. When you are ready to serve, cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions.
  16. When the pasta is cooked, drain and divide between four plates, spooning the sauce over top.
  17. Garnish with grated or shaved Parmesan, Parmegiano Reggiano or Gran Padano cheese.

More Tasty Meatless Pasta Recipes

Vegetarian Lasagna Pasta Bake

Spinach Florentine Casserole

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Article by April Harris

April has written 1281 great articles for us.

April is a writer, recipe developer, frequent traveller and blogger sharing travel, food, and style. Based in the south of England, April is a British Canadian who is passionate about family, hearth and home, healthy living (with treats!) and the transformative power of travel.

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  1. You are so right summer has so many veggies that is a shame to be left out! Awesome dish!

  2. Hi April,
    I just love the history of this dish. We would really enjoy the deep flavors of this fabulous Pasta dish. Thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and have a great weekend!
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  3. What a nice vegetable sauce for pasta. My son loves eggplant and I am a huge fan of mushrooms. Good to know that Parm can be used rather than ricotta (ricotta is not one of my favorite things!).
    Thank you for sharing with See Ya in the Gumbo this week, April.

  4. Thank you so much for adding your recipe link at our Grand Opening of #PureBlogLove . Your recipe look delicious! I hope to see you next week at 8 pm EST!
    Have a great day

  5. Hi April, wow I love this pasta dish you shared today at the Cooking & Crafting Link Up Party! Thanks and hope you come back again!

  6. Oh my gosh. This sounds so delicious! I could totally eat a HUGE bowl of this!

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

  7. Yum, this sounds delicious, I love that you’ve added more wonderful veggies!
    Thanks for sharing at What’d You Do This Weekend? I hope you will join us again next Monday!

  8. This looks delicious. I love authentic family recipes. Great idea.

  9. It’s been so long since I’ve had this, I’ve forgotten all about it! I’m so happy to see your recipe! YUM – one of my faves!

  10. Dear April, I make a similar dish during busy weeks…it is so easy to whip up and always delicious. This is my idea of comfort food…a nice plate of pasta such as this, and what more do you need?! xo, Catherine

  11. Your dish looks so warm and welcoming April Pinned and shared!

  12. That looks great! You’d not miss the meat 🙂

  13. This is looking delish, can’t wait to make it!!

  14. This looks fantastic, love all the fresh flavors and how easy to make this is, yum!

  15. I love any tomato based pasta with eggplant. And I guess the veggies you added enriched the flavor more! Looks so delicious and flavorful! Pinning and tweeting!


  1. […] to April from April J. Harris of the 21st Century Housewife as when I saw her Pasta alla Norma My Way, I was immediately to the Fusilli Lunghi (curly […]

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