Salsa alla Norma

Salsa alla Norma

Tradition has it that Salsa alla Norma was created in honor of Vincenzo Bellini's tragic opera, "Norma."  As is so common to many Calabrian sauces, this salsa includes an array of vegetables beyond the hallmark tomato.  In the case of Norma, eggplant takes center stage. 

Cooked with plenty of olive oil and salt, it softens into a silky, almost smokey sauce.  It's best served over rigatoni, ziti, or hot polenta.  

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 medium eggplant, about ¾ pound, unpeeled and cut into ½-inch pieces.
  • 2-2½ pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 tbsp fresh basil, coarsely chopped, divided
  • ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
  • High quality olive oil, to finish
  • Pasta or polenta, for serving

Preparation

  1. In a large, heavy skillet, heat a tbsp of oil to medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent, 3-4 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.  Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove the onion and garlic from the skillet, reserving them in a small bowl. 

  2. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, followed by the eggplant.  Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Return the onion and garlic to the skillet.  Add the tomatoes, 2 tbsp of the basil, and the salt.  Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.  
  3. Add the remining basil, stir, and simmer for another two minutes. 
  4. Serve warm over pasta or fresh polenta, finished with a little more basil and a drizzle of nice olive oil. 
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