My friends Mary Pell and Claire taught me how to cook Pasta ala Norma while we were all abroad in Europe together. They were taking an Italian cooking class (for credit- yeah) and taught me how to make it when I came to visit them in Florence one weekend. It was love at first bite. Claire and Mary Pell aren't the best chefs in the world (that's fair, right guys?) but they could have opened up a restaurant that semester. A restaurant that served only Pasta ala Norma, baguettes with brie and cheap red wine, mind you.
About a year later I was visiting my fusband in San Diego and decided to impress him with the dish. During the eggplant frying part of the process, my oil spilled over the side and into the burner. Chaos ensued. Let's just say apartment complexes don't exactly return your full deposit if the bottom of your microwave is melted. My bad.
My love of Pasta ala Norma has endured, and so have my horrendous frying skills. So I crafted a recipe that requires about a third as much attention as the traditional recipe (read: no frying) and is almost as good. Not to mention it is WAY healthier. I might even venture to call this a healthy recipe, actually!
4 small eggplants
1 red onion
4 garlic cloves
3 large tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
gorgonzola or goat cheese
Chop all vegetables into 1/4 inch cubes, mince garlic. On one baking sheet, toss 3 of the eggplants, 1/2 of the onion, and all of the garlic with about a tablespoon of olive oil. On another baking sheet, toss the remaining eggplant, 1/2 onion, and whatever vegetable you have on hand that would go well in there - I had summer squash.
Put both baking sheets in the oven on 500º. Take out the second baking sheet after 25 minutes and set aside. Take the first baking dish out and add all ingredients to a food processor. Blend until smooth.
Simultaneously, cook your pasta per the directions on the box. When it is almost ready, pour all but about 3/4 of the water off. Add pureed eggplant sauce. Chop the tomatoes and fresh oregano and add. Keep over heat until the tomatoes are very soft and the sauce has thickened.
Add in roasted vegetables. Top with your favorite cheese and a sprig of oregano and serve!