I first ordered Pasta alla Norma at a little Italian Restaurant off the Blvd. Saint-Germain in Paris and instantly fell in love with it...soft aubergines stewed in tomato sauce and topped with ricotta cheese (at least I think it was soft ricotta). Aubergines are something that I am forever trying to make taste great at home (when I have the courage and time) but more often than not they tend to taste better (for me) when cooked in a restaurant...so when we go out for Indian, Chinese, Italian...I often order something with aubergines.
Last week I made a salad with aubergine and last night I tried my hand at my own version of Pasta all Norma, substituting the ricotta for goats cheese.
Please forgive the splatters on the side of the bowl...I barley had time to snap this pic...I was starving!
My Norma sauce is made by sautéing half a chopped onion in olive oil until soft, ( I've started adding a Tbsp or two of boiling water from the pasta pot to the onions at this point...it is supposed to help break them down...I've been watching Lidia Bastianich on Food Network and she always adds some water to the onions) then in with half an aubergine cut into little cubes (spongey middle bit cut off) and a pinch of chili flakes, and fry that (stirring, stirring) for about 5 mins until soft and just starting to turn golden. Then in with half a tin of chopped tomatoes and a pinch of sugar, and simmer until the aubergine is nice and soft (I usually add a few Tbsp of pasta water now and a again as the sauce cooks down). While the sauce is simmering I cook the pasta, and just before it is ready to come together I stir in about 50g of soft goats cheese and a handful of basil leaves. The goats cheese makes the sauce really creamy and gives the sauce that little zing....you know....that zing that goats cheese has.