This summer, while travelling though Italy, I had the pleasure of enjoying one of my all time favourite veggies, eggplant. I had pasta with eggplant, pizza with eggplant, grilled eggplant, marinated eggplant and eggplant parmigiana. You name it, I had it and it was delicious. I know eggplant is hardly a vegetable to get excited about and definitely not a favourite in our house, but with continued exposure (sometimes a little forced), we are learning to love and appreciate it’s versatility, texture and taste. And this is the time of year to enjoy it, since it is in season and readily available.
Pasta alla Norma or pasta with eggplant is a simple classic Mediterranean dish consisting of pasta, tomato sauce, eggplant and topped with grated cheese. Traditionally the dish is served with aged and dried ricotta cheese, or ricotta salata, but Parmesan, tastes just as good.
Here area a few interesting facts about eggplants:
- The commonly know eggplant contains a glossy purple skin with a spongy texture that may take some getting used to. It is a member of the nightshade vegetables, along with tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Some individuals experienced inflammatory type reactions with nightshades, in which case, it is often recommended they be eaten in moderation or avoided outright.
- Eggplant is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B1 and copper. It is a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, folate and vitamin K.
- Eggplant contains many important phytonutrients such as nasunin and chlorogenic acid. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, chlorogenic acid is one of the most potent free radical scavengers found in plant tissues. Benefits attributed to chlorogenic acid include antimutagenic (anti-cancer), antimicrobial, anti-LDL (bad cholesterol) and antiviral activities.
- It’s purple skin is rich in a group of flavonoids know as anthocyanins, another powerful antioxidant, also boosting antiviral and anticancer properties.
I will leave you with this simple recipe for Pasta alla Norma. And as an aside, I have yet to discover who Norma is. If you know, please let me know!
Pasta alla Norma
- 1 medium-sized eggplant, cut into thin slices
- 500 gram whole grain pasta (spelt, Kamut, gluten-free)
- Tomato sauce or 1 glass jar of passata/tomato puree
- Olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- Ricotta salata or Parmesan cheese, grated
- Fresh basil and salt, to taste
- Turn oven on and set to broil.
- Slice eggplant into 1/2 – 3/4 inch thick slices
- Layer slices in a colander and salt generously. Allow to sit for 30-40 minutes. After the slices have been left for 30-40 minutes, squeeze out excess water and pat dry.
- Layer the slices on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and place under the broiler and allow the slices to brown slightly. Once browned, flip, brush with oil and allow the other side to brown. Remove from the oven, cut into smaller segments or wedges and set aside.
- Meanwhile heat a large saucepan. Add oil and crushed garlic. Allow to saute for 5-8 minutes or until lightly browned. Add the tomato puree or passata and allow to cook for about 30 – 40 minutes or until reduced and thickened. Season with salt, add basil and set aside.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Once cooked al dente, drain and return to the pot. Add the tomato sauce, eggplant and mix until everything is nicely coated with sauce. Sprinkle with ricotta salata or Parmesan, chopped basil leaves, and serve.
Linda @ The Wholesome Kitchen