Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Move Over, Norma!

Pasta "Madama Butterfly"
"Madame Butterfly" Pasta


Just having a little fun with you all here with this post... which is basically a simple version of Sicily's "national dish" of "Pasta alla Norma".

Only, I figured, if this dish was named after an opera, I could name mine after a different opera being as I was using different ingredients... if I wanted to!

So, I went from Bellini's Norma, to Puccini's Madame Butterfly- on account of my eggplants and chili pepper coming from Asia- and have to say that they made this into the best plate of farfalle I have eaten in a looong time! Talk about having butterflies in your tummy!


How can something so simple be something so good? Well... because it uses good, basic, fresh ingredients and lets them shine by not adding too many other flavors to overpower or alter them. As always- it is about balance and moderation! Less fuss- more flavor! Word!

To transform one generous portion of pasta into something sublimely, exquisitely Sicilian and delicious, I used 3 Thai eggplants (1 small, "regular" European eggplant would be the equivalent), 1 hot red chili pepper, 1 Spring onion, just 4-5 cherry tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of tomato purée, a good handful of basil, salt, pepper, olive oil... and of course- salted Ricotta cheese for grating!


The classic ingredients would be garlic, eggplant, tomato, basil and salted Ricotta- so this is pretty close to the real thing! Garlic would be excellent- but again, I somehow managed to not have any at home! Never mind- trust me... there are enough people in Sicily who are not fans of garlic- right, Sis? Just practicing for when I come over so, I can make this for you! Hehe!

So- time to get chopping! The eggplant should be cut into larg-ish sized, mite-sized chunks... because remember- it WILl soften up quite a lot during cooking! The tomatoes I simply halved, the onion I sliced... but that chili? Yes- it IS wise to chop it finely and to get that heat a flavor spread throughout the dish uniformly... and also... make sure to wash your hands after working with it! And do not touch your eyes!


Begin by frying the eggplant in olive oil and try to set the pieces out so that they lie with one of the flat edges on the surface of the pan. Let them sizzle for 1-2 minutes without stirring and then flip them onto the other flat surface and do the same... have a little patience!


Because once you DO flip them over... you will find that they have turned into this wonderful, golden brown!


Next, pop your pasta into the saucepan to boil and add the chili, onion and tomato to the eggplant. Stir-fry everything together and season with a little salt and pepper- then after 5 minutes of the pasta boiling and the eggplant sizzling gently away... you will be ready to go!


In goes the pasta, along with enough of the water it has been boiling in to almost cover it and a tablespoon of tomato puree.


Continue cooking and gently stirring for 3-4 minutes and you will find that as if by magic... this work of culinary art will appear right before your very eyes!

Every last bit of flavor that was in that frying pan is STILL right there in the frying pan... it is all trapped in that wonderful pasta! And it is all yours to enjoy!


Grate generously, but at the same time, do not exaggerate with the salted Ricotta, as it is indeed, rather salty- but at the same time, it is my very favorite grating cheese of all to use on pasta dishes! Don't hate me! I'm Sicilian!


Need I say more, when I can just let you look at these pictures and drool?


You know, when people wrack their brains about vegetarian dishes and what to make? Well... I really don't know why! Back in the Old Country, we would know exactly what to do! And often it would be something like this!


Chances are... if you like these pictures, you are going to love these flavors! Give it a try... and you will see... you are going to really enjoy it! It's one plate of pasta you cannot refuse! 

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