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.
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Mushrooms & pasta

I love the idea of easy dishes, especially in the summer when you don’t want to spend all your time in the kitchen but you would rather be outside, enjoying a glass of cava or proseco and some sun.

One of my favourite summer dishes is pasta with mushrooms. It takes less than half an hour to make this dish, it is full of flavours and very tasty as well.

pasta with mushrooms and pine nuts

serves 4

500 grams of pasta

3 garlic cloves

6 big ripped diced tomatoes or 2 cans of diced tomatoes

2 chilli peppers

600 grams mushrooms

bacon

pine nuts

parmesan cheese

salt, pepper

1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Start by making the sauce for the pasta. First, fry some chopped garlic and chilli peppers in a pan with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, infused with thyme. Add the mushrooms into the pan and fry them for few minutes until the mushrooms are cooked throughout. Add the tomatoes and cook them for about half an hour (add water if the sauce if reducing too much). Add the sugar and the vinegar to the sauce – this will bring out flavours of the sauce and will prevent it from turning sourish). When the sauce is almost done, add some basilicum cut in thin ribbons. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the instruction on the package. Drain the pasta and add them to the sauce. Usually, I like to cook the pasta with the sauce for few minutes to get them well mixed.

Serve the pasta with a lot of parmesan cheese and some pine nuts.

Happy Mother’s Day – 2!!!!

The second recipe is a pasta dish. I made it specifically for mother’s day  because it is a dish that reminds me of spring, of freshness and of tenderness –  in a word it reminds me of  my mom. She is the sweetest, the most gentle and most caring person  I know.

asparagus and green peas pasta

A bunch of purple or green asparagus
70 grams green
peas
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 onion
2-3 garlic cloves
200 ml cooking cream
thyme
salt
pepper,
100 grams sun dried tomatoes
spaghetti or any other type of pasta for 2 persons
Boil the pasta according to the instructions.
For the sauce,  start by chopping the onion and the garlic. In a large pan saute the onion in 2  tablespoons of olive oil, add the garlic and the thyme once the onion starts to  soften.
Add the asparagus cut in few cm pieces. Fry it for 2-3 minutes, than  add the green peas , saute for 2 minutes and then add the cooking cream. Let it  simmer for few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When the sauce is  done, mix it with the pasta. Serve it with sun dried tomatoes, plenty of  parmigiano and roasted pine nuts.