Sunday, 3 April 2011

Dinner Party Pasta

How do you feel about serving pasta when you have guests for dinner? In our household Mr. B often turns his nose up at this a little bit. Being the one who usually cooks for the guests however, I've got nothing against making my life a bit easier. Thus, I introduce my new (to me) favourite pasta dish, Pasta alla Norma. It's a lovely, rich, aubergine-based dish, apparently named after an opera by Vincenzo Bellini and I think it is perfectly suited for when you have friends over, but it is so simple to make.

So for approx. 6 people:
2 aubergines, slice and put in colander, salt them and weigh them down, leave for about 1.5 hr
Olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 small carton of passata
salt and pepper
100g grated feta or balkan cheese

The original recipe(s) require salted ricotto, but is impossible to come by. Feta does seem to work as an alternative. Obviously it is tricky to grate, but just keep going until it looks like cottage cheese. Feta is expensive here though, so I use balkan cheese.  It is very similar to feta, although not as strong a flavour. It can also be bought in a slightly drier consistency.

1) When the slices of aubergine have been left for long enough, get a little bowl of plain flour ready, and heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-based pan. I don't put lots of oil in to start with, I top up as I go to try and keep the oil usage down. Then dip each slice in the flour, and fry in the hot oil, until golden on each side. The slices of aubergine will feel lovely and squidgy. Transfer the slices to a plate lined with kitchen roll.

2) Once the aubergine is ready, fry your onion and garlic on a low heat until the onion is soft and melt-y. Then add the tin of tomatoes and the carton of passata. Give it all a good stir, then add in the aubergine. You don't need to, but at this point I slice the aubergine again into half slices or quarter slices. I find it makes it more manageable on a fork with the pasta.

3) Leave the tomato sauce on a low heat, just enough to get it all bubbling a little bit. Meanwhile cook your pasta. You really, really need BIG pasta shapes for this. It makes it taste wonderful! I buy Tesco Finest Pennoni Rigate when it is on offer, and keep it in the cupboard for this meal.

4) Once the pasta is ready, stir half of the grated cheese into the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the rest on top of the served pasta.

Great with a green salad, and maybe some ciabatta. I think it's a lovely Italian feast that I enjoy sharing with good friends. Alternatively, if it's just for one or two of you, the aubergine/tomato sauce freezes well.

image via Paoletta S.

1 comment:

  1. Bookmarked for future use. Anything easy for dinner parties is great - we do chilli or curry or some sort of one pot chicken or meat... it's no fun being stuck in the kitchen.
    The Dogs Mum


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