Pasta alla Norma and the travel itch

 

The love to travel!!! I wonder sometimes if I was conceived while my parents were travelling.

To scratch a bit the travel itch (or to intensify it….I still can’t decide what the effect was) I started looking at pictures I took during some of my trips and a particular one brought back tasty memories – the trip to Sicily.

Sicily is one of those places where you don’t necessarily travel to visit historic places or to see natural beauties, but you go to stuff your face, you get your taste buds totally nuts.

I think I can place it next to my favourite foodies trips like Thailand, Greece in general and Crete in particular, Spain, France, Mexico or the rest of Italy. And this is not because Sicily doesn’t have to offer great natural wonders, just to mention here Mount Etna and you know that this island is simply gorgeous. The greek, roman, arab , french and spanish influences¬† make this island particularly interesting in terms of food, architecture or people.

One of my first encounters with food in Sicily was Pasta alla Norma.

This is one of the classic sicilian dishes, bringing together the amazing flavours of eggplants, tomatoes, basil and garlic.

The story of this dish says that it was compared by Nino Martoglio, an Italian writer and poet, which was impressed with the deep flavours of the dish, with the splendor of Bellini’s opera Norma. Bellini was sicilian himself, born in Catania, no wonder he could create such perfect sounds after eating such this kind of food.¬† Perhaps would I turn into a soprano if I would live in a place with such amazing flavours. Difficult to belive it as I have one of the worst voice I have heard, but its worth trying or at least dreaming :-)

The recipe is very easy and fast, getting you dinner in no time, the only down side is that you will be hooked on it for a while.

pasta alla Norma

serves 4

400 – 500 grams of casarecce or rigatoni

2 eggplants

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves of chopped garlic

chilli pepper flakes

salt, pepper

1 can tomato paste or 8 chopped medium tomatoes

6-8 leaves of basil

ricotta salata

optional : chopped pistachio

Boil the pasta according to the instructions on the package.
Cut the eggplants into slices, salt them and let them rest for half an hour, to make sure they won’t turn bitter during cooking. Dry the eggplants with a paper towel and then cut the eggplant into small cubes.
In a pan heat olive oil, add the chopped garlic and the chilli flakes and saute for half a minute. Add the cubed eggplants and saute until golden. Add the tomato sauce, salt, pepper to taste. One of the tricks I am using to make sure the sauce is not turning sourish is to add half a teaspoon of sugar and few drops of balsamic vinegar. Cook for about 10 minutes, Midway add chopped basil to the sauce.

Once the pasta is al dente, drain and toss over the tomato sauce. Give a quick stir and pour in a serving plate. Finish by grating some ricotta salad and chopped pistachios on top of it.
P.S. Big, big THANK YOU to Caroline of Patterned Plate for the Liebster blog award, more about it in a future post.

Pumpkin soup – trick or treat?


Lately, few friends asked me for a good pumpkin soup recipe. I tried various pumpkin soup recipes before, but I was never thrilled about the result. Usually I love coconut, but not that much in my pumpkin soup, so that version was out of the picture. I tried some more savoury versions, but I was never fully happy with the result.
This was until I tried this version of Alain Ducasse. Guess when you gathered so many Michelin stars you ought to know how to make a good pumpkin soup…. and I can testify here that he does. The addition of leek gives the soup extra body and sweetness, while the rest of the ingredients make it simply delicious.The recipe is pretty simple, as it includes fresh, good quality ingredients and goes perfectly with this time of the year – Halloween.


cream of pumpkin soup

from Ducasse made simple by Sophie

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced,

1 leek (white part only), thinly slices,

1 pound sugar pumpkin, peeled and cut into small chunks (I had one small pumpkin and I used it all)

6 cups chicken broth

3/4 cups ricotta cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and leek, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until they soften and begin to look translucent. Stir in the pumpkin and a dash of salt and pepper. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, add the ricotta cheese, and stir to combine – I skipped this step, I just added the ricotta before serving


Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Adjust the seasoning to taste. While the soup is cooking, heat a medium skillet over high heat. In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream with a pinch of salt until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Ladle the pumpkin soup into warmed bowls and garnish each serving with the diced bacon – again skipped this, didn”t feel like having any meat component in my soup

Add a generous spoonful of whipped cream in the center of each bowl, some chopped chives, a dash of chilli pepper and serve immediately.