Pasta Alla Norma

By Lee Jackson ↣ Published on: October 26, 2020

Last Updated: January 28th, 20240 Comments on Pasta Alla Norma

This Classic Italian eggplant pasta sauce delivers on texture, fragrance and flavour. A rich, decadent sauce that’s tangy, sweet and velvety smooth.

A bowl of Pasta Alla Norma with Rigatoni Pasta

Pasta Alla Norma is one of those classic Italian recipes that is a fail-safe dish to satisfy any flavour pangs you're having. Mid-week, I'm often not in the mood for an extravagant dinner prep. Rich eggplant/aubergine sits in a tangy, creamy marinara sauce with lots of fragrant fresh basil.

I've been cooking Pasta Alla Norma for years, as it's a fail-safe dish to put together that's ready in no time and consistently delicious. It's a quick vegetarian fix for any occasion.

What's Ahead?

Frying eggplant in a pan

What is Pasta Norma?

The dish is rumoured to have been named 'Norma' by the Italian writer Nino Martoglio who, upon tasting the dish, exclaimed "This is a real 'Norma'!"- he was referring to the Vincenzo Bellini opera Norma, which he considered 'perfection'.

Why it works?

It's simple and delicious - Pasta alla norma is super easy to make at home. It's packed with flavour and has the best, creamy texture too.

The ingredients for Pasta Alla Norma - Eggplant, tomato passata, tomato concentrate, garlic, onion and fresh basil leaves.

Stuff You'll Need

There's not a lot to this duper delicious pasta recipe. Here are the key flavours of Pasta Alla Norma.

  • Eggplant/Aubergine - The soft, creamy of texture of eggplant is what makes this recipe so special.
  • Tomato - I use a good quality passata as well as a little extra tomato concentrate to really bring the tart, tang of tomato to the dish.
  • Onion - adds a little backbone and sweetness to the sauce.
  • Garlic - for more depth of flavour.
  • Basil - fresh basil bring a final quintessential Italian flourish of fragrance to the Norma sauce.
Tomato sauce with basil cooking in a pan

Step by Step

Making Pasta Alla Norma is simple. Here are the key steps to success.

  1. Step 1 - Salt some cubes eggplant for a few minutes then pat dry and wipe off the excess salt and set aside.
  2. Step 2 - Heat the oil and fry the eggplant cubes until browned and soft. Remove from the pan
  3. Step 3 - Add the onion to the pan and fry until soft. Then do the same with the garlic.
  4. Step 4 - Add the tomato concentrate and passata and some water and bring to simmer.
  5. Step 5 - Add the fresh basil and simmer for around 10 minutes before adding the eggplant then simmering for another 10 minutes. That's it!

Serving is easy - just combine the sauce with some cooked pasta of your choice (use a little of the pasta cooking liquid to loosen the sauce a bit). Rigatoni pasta is traditional, but you can use any shape you like.

The traditional topping is a finely grated sheep's cheese called Ricotta Salata. You can use any hard cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano or Pecorino too.

Norma Sauce for Pasta Alla Norma, cooking in a pan.

Serving & Storage Suggestions


  • Serving - Pasta Alla Norma is straightforward. Serve topped with some grated cheese - as I mentioned earlier, the Sicilian cheese Ricotta Salata is traditional, but any hard Italian cheese will suffice.
  • Advance - You can make the sauce in advance and simply cook your pasta and combine when ready.
  • Bake it - make it 'Norma al Forno' by mixing the sauce with 80% cooked pasta and 1 cup water and a few cubes of mozzarella (try it with smoked mozzarella!). Top with more mozzarella and ricotta salata and bake in a 180ºC/350ºF oven for 20-30 minutes.


A bowl of Pasta Alla Norma with Rigatoni Pasta

Ready to get cooking?

Pasta Alla Norma is one of my most cooked mid-week pasta dishes. It's quick and easy and great choice for meatless dinners without feeling 'still hungry' after a big old bowl. It has so much flavour and the dreamiest, creamiest texture ever. I hope you enjoy!

A bowl of Pasta Alla Norma with Rigatoni Pasta

Any Questions? (FAQ)

Have a question about Pasta Alla Norma? Let me know in the comments.

What is Pasta Alla Norma?

Pasta Alla Norma is a classic Sicilian pasta dish that features sautéed eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, basil, and grated ricotta salata cheese. The name "Norma" is believed to be a nod to the opera "Norma" by Vincenzo Bellini, possibly implying that the dish is as sublime as the music.

How is Pasta Alla Norma traditionally prepared?

To make Pasta Alla Norma, start by frying cubed eggplant until golden and then sauté it with garlic and tomatoes. Combine this with cooked pasta, fresh basil, and a generous sprinkle of ricotta salata cheese, creating a harmonious blend of flavours and textures.

What is the history behind Pasta Alla Norma?

Pasta Alla Norma has its roots in Sicily, Italy. It's believed to have been named in the mid-20th century, celebrating Sicilian culture and cuisine. The dish represents the simple yet delicious ingredients and flavors that are characteristic of Mediterranean cooking, making it a beloved classic in Italian cuisine.

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A bowl of Pasta Alla Norma with Rigatoni Pasta

Pasta Alla Norma

Rate this recipe

4.75 from 4 votes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe Save Recipe
Recipe by Lee
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time40 minutes
Servings (adjustable) 4
Calories (per serving) | 236

Video Recipe


  • 2 eggplant (medium size, peeled)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 shallots (chopped) (or 1/4 cup chopped onion)
  • 4 garlic cloves (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 bunch basil (fresh) (leaves only, roughly chopped)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree concentrate
  • 1 bottle tomato passata (24.5oz/700g)
  • Ricotta salata (for garnish) (you can also use parmesan)


  • Peel the eggplpant and cut into large cubes (sprinkle with a little salt and leave for 5 minutes to draw out a little moisture) Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat until hot. Add the eggplant in a single layer and fry for 6-7 minutes, turning occasionally. We want a nice brown colour on the eggplant - as it browns and softens, some of the oil will return to the pan.
  • Remove the eggplant from the pan and set aside. If there is no oil in the pan, add a drizzle to the pan.
    Add the onion to the pan and fry gently for 2-3 minutes until soft and golden.
    Now add the garlic and fry for 1 minute to soften.
  • Add the tomato puree and stir-fry for 20-30 seconds before pouring in all the tomato passata. Add 1 cup of water to the bottle, and shake, then pour into the sauce.
    Stir in the basil leaves then season with salt, pepper and sugar and stir well. Bring to a simmer then cook gently for 10 minutes (turn the heat down for a gentle simmer).
  • Return the eggplant to the pan and let this cook for a further 10 minutes. If the sauce reduces too much, add a little water.

Finishing the dish

  • Cook your chosen pasta in salted water to the packet timings. When cooked, drain (reserving a little of the cooking water).
    Mix in enough sauce to generously coat the pasta - add a couple of spoonfuls of pasta cooking liquid to loosen the sauce. Arrange in bowls and scatter over the ricotta salata or Parmesan cheese.


Calories: 236kcal (12%) | Carbohydrates: 18g (6%) | Protein: 3g (6%) | Fat: 18g (28%) | Saturated Fat: 3g (19%) | Sodium: 8mg | Potassium: 596mg (17%) | Fiber: 7g (29%) | Sugar: 10g (11%) | Vitamin A: 179IU (4%) | Vitamin C: 8mg (10%) | Calcium: 34mg (3%) | Iron: 1mg (6%)
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