Pasta with aubergines and tomatoes

  • medium
  • Serves 4
  • 1 hour 30 minutes
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Francesco Mazzei serves the Sicilian classic, pasta alla norma or pasta with aubergines and tomatoes. Francesco uses zitoni pasta, however, other tubular pastas such as penne or candele lunghe are good alternatives. This recipe is taken from Francesco Mazzei's book, Recipes from Southern Italy, (Penguin Random House, November 2015).

First published in 2015




Pasta alla norma

Tomato sauce



Begin by making the tomato sauce. Put the onion into a saucepan with half the oil and let it sweat slowly over a low-medium heat for around 15 minutes until it's soft (do not allow it to colour). If it looks as though it might catch, add a splash of water to the pan

  • 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
  • 300g of white onion, very finely sliced

Add the tomatoes and season with salt. Leave to simmer over a low heat for about 45 minutes, until the tomatoes are thick and rich, adding a little water if the level of the liquid gets too low. Remove from the heat


Put the remaining oil in another pan with the garlic and cook over a low-medium heat. When it's almost golden brown, add the basil leaves and stir. Pass the oil through a sieve into the cooked tomato sauce

Whisk the sauce to break up the tomatoes. If it's too thick, thin it with a little water, ideally some pasta cooking water. Pass the sauce through a wide-holed sieve resting over a bowl, and use the back of a ladle to extract the smooth mixture. Check the seasoning and add more salt if neccessary

To make the aubergine and tomato pasta, place the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and sweat the garlic until golden

Add the basil, anchovies, capers and 250ml of the tomato sauce and heat through, then keep on a low heat
Cook the zitoni according to the packet instructions, until al dente, then drain, reserving 240ml of the cooking liquid
While the pasta is cooking, heat the sunflower oil in a deep saucepan or fat fryer until it reaches 185°C
  • 500ml of sunflower oil
Dust the aubergine slices with flour and fry the aubergines until nice and golden. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. It is important to coat the aubergines in the flour as this stops the oil getting to the flesh and prevents the aubergines going soggy
  • 1 aubergine, halved lenghtways
  • 2 tbsp of pecorino
Stir the pasta into the sauce with about a ladleful of the reserved cooking liquid. Mix well, add the pecorino, then divide between warmed serving bowls, top with the fried aubergine slices, then sprinkle over the ricotta and extra basil leaves

Francesco Mazzei reminds us why we fell in love with Italian food in the first place, conjuring soulful dishes that put flavour first.

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