During those college years, my then boyfriend (and now husband) and I would take over the tiny dorm room kitchen and make pasta sauce in our little metal pot. The scents of garlic and basil would fill the dormitory, and everyone who walked by would poke their head in and exclaim “What are you making? It smells incredible!!!” Even now, many years later as a married couple with children, this dish is still our go to, easy and delicious, pasta dinner.
Sometimes when my life today as a wife, artist, teacher, and mother of two teens leaves me with precious little time, I will actually purchase a pre-made jar of sauce. My daughters will grumble on those nights and tell me “Mom, we like your sauce so much better…” Their comments make me feel loved and appreciated and remind me that it is worth the tiny bit of extra time to create homemade meals.
The few simple ingredients in this sauce combine to make a luxurious tasting (and smelling) dinner. The pasta is topped with fresh fried eggplant and traditionally, shredded ricotta salata, an Italian cheese made from sheep's milk. To replace the ricotta salata, use Miyoko’s Vegan Mozzarella to recreate this Sicilian classic in a vegan style.
Vegan Pasta Alla Norma With Homemade Tomato Sauce (Authentic Sicilian Recipe)
- 1 lb (16 oz) Ziti, Penne, or your favorite pasta
- 14 oz can of plum tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- one big handful fresh basil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt for the eggplant
- to taste salt, for sauce
- 1- 2 Tbsp Miyoko’s Plant Based Mozzarella
- 1 medium eggplant
1. Cook the pasta to “al dente,” to the tooth, so that it is soft but has a little bite to it. Set aside, or prepare other elements while cooking. Cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch thin strips and sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt to remove excess moisture and bitterness. Let the eggplant strips and salt sit in a colander over a bowl or in the sink for about 15 minutes.
2. For the sauce, lightly chop and fry the garlic in the olive oil. Fry the garlic for only a minute or two at most. Be very careful not to let it burn! It is better to undercook the garlic than to overcook it. Take the canned tomatoes and break them up with a wooden spoon (or immersion blender in a separate bowl). Add tomatoes to the garlic and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Then, add the chopped fresh basil and perhaps a dash more olive oil and the sugar. Cook the sauce for another 10- minute minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove sauce from heat.
3. Drain and fry the eggplant in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Spread the eggplant evenly in the frying pan over high heat for about 3 minutes, and then flip to the other side and repeat. Transfer to a plate.
4. Assemble the pasta! Let this be an artistic expression… fill your favorite bowl or plate with the cooked pasta and top the pasta with a heaping ladle full of sauce. Shred a little vegan mozzarella on top and garnish with fresh basil. Mangia!
Also by Angie: Sweet & Simple Authentic Tomato Bruschetta
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Photo: Angie Follensbee-Hall