Tomato and Eggplant Pasta (Pasta Alla Norma)

5 from 9 votes
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Pasta alla norma combines baked or air-fried eggplant with a homemade tomato sauce, pasta, and parmesan for a hearty, wholesome, comforting meal! Best of all, this tomato and eggplant pasta recipe is meat-free and can be made gluten-free and vegan in under 40 minutes!

A bowl with pasta alla norma topped with parmesan cheese

I love pasta – it’s hearty and comforting but can also be elevated to something extraordinary. Just a couple of weeks ago, I posted a recipe for egg yolk ravioli. I also shared a traditional basil pesto, perfect for serving with homemade fresh pasta. This week it’s the turn of Pasta Alla Norma (aka tomato and eggplant pasta), a perfect addition to your mid-week meal rotation. 

Pasta Alla Norma is a Sicilian eggplant pasta dish that traditionally includes macaroni pasta with tomato and fried eggplant with grated Ricotta Salata cheese, topped off with basil. This version, however, substitutes the oil-heavy frying for roasted or air fried eggplant and top off the dish with parmesan, which is more readily available in the UK. I’ve also made a few other tweaks for a delicious, roasted eggplant pasta.

A bowl with pasta alla norma

The result is a wonderful summery pasta dish, though you can enjoy it any time of the year! Even better, it’s a delicious meal for meat-free Mondays that the whole family will love! It’s perfect for adding to your rotation alongside dishes like mixed veggie lasagna, mushroom tacos, mushroom ragu, and 7-layer burritos!

The Ingredients

Ingredients for eggplant tomato pasta
  • Eggplant: use a firm, ripe eggplant. Smaller eggplants may be better for avoiding seeds which can lead to more bitter eggplant though any will work. 
  • Tomatoes: I used a combination of high-quality (Italian San Marzano) tin of peeled plum tomatoes and some homemade tomato paste. You could, alternatively, just use some passata only.
  • Pasta: I used rigatoni pasta and recommend a tube-shaped pasta for picking up all the sauce. However, you can use spaghetti, bows, or whatever pasta you prefer. Feel free to use a gluten-free option if required, like oat pasta or lentil pasta.
  • Aromatics: I used a combination of onion, garlic, and basil. Though the first two aren’t necessarily traditional, I love adding both to this eggplant pasta recipe. 
  • Seasonings: I used a combination of salt and pepper, chili flakes, and oregano (or Italian seasoning). The oregano and chili flakes are both optional, though. 
  • Cheese: if you’re able to find it, you can use Ricotta Salata (salty ricotta). Otherwise, parmesan is a great alternative (make sure to look for a vegetarian one, if needed).
  • Oil: use a neutral cooking oil like olive oil when cooking the eggplant. 

Other Optional Add-ins and variations

  • ‘Cheat’ sauce: if you want an even quicker, more effortless pasta alla norma, then you can use a high-quality pre-made marinara sauce. Optionally tweak the flavor with a bit of garlic powder and onion powder
  • Lower-carb: feel free to swap out the pasta for vegetable noodles like zoodles or carrot noodles. 
  • Balsamic vinegar: just a dash of balsamic vinegar can add depth to the pasta sauce.
  • Tangy element: olives are a great addition to this eggplant pasta sauce, especially if you don’t plan on using cheese. This is because the olives will add a salty element to the dish then. You could alternatively use capers. 

You could also add in extra veggies, though the dish will turn away from pasta alla norma, then. My favorites include bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, etc.

How to Make Pasta alla Norma

Step 1: Prepare the eggplant

First, clean and dice the eggplant into around 1-inch pieces.

Chopped eggplant on a wooden board

Then drizzle with oil and toss well to coat the pieces (in a bowl or straight on a parchment-lined baking sheet).

Mixing oil with eggplant cubes

Place the eggplant pieces in a single layer, either on a parchment-lined baking sheet or in an air fryer. 

Oven: Cook for 25-35 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 400ºF/200ºC, flipping once halfway. 

Air fryer: Cook for 15-20 minutes at 400ºF/200ºC, flipping once halfway (or at least shake the basket). 

There’s no need to pre-salt the eggplant unless you plan on deep frying the eggplant.

Eggplant in an air fryer tray

Step 2: Prepare the pasta

Meanwhile, as the eggplant cooks, cook the rigatoni pasta according to the pasta instructions. I like to undercook it by 2-3 minutes as it will cook further when combined with the sauce. That way, you can avoid over-done pasta. 

Make sure to save some of the pasta sauce to add to the sauce. The starch in the water will add a little silkiness, can dilute the sauce if needed, and helps it to adhere better to the pasta.

Cooked pasta

Step 3: Prepare the tomato sauce

First, finely chop the onion and garlic (do this in the last 5 minutes of the eggplant baking time). Then add them to a large pre-heated skillet over medium heat and allow them to saute for 1-2 minutes.

Minced garlic and onion in bowls

Then, add the tomato paste and spices and stir well to combine before adding the peeled plum tomatoes (the sauce included). Mash the tomatoes lightly with your spoon and stir well. 

Steps for preparing tomato eggplant pasta

I added some chopped basil stems to the sauce, too, though it’s not necessary. Then add the cooked eggplant and pasta and stir well. Give it a quick taste and adjust any of the seasonings if needed.

Steps for cooking pasta alla norma

Alternatively, you can keep the pasta to one side and serve the bowls of pasta with the tomato and eggplant pasta sauce served over the top, rather than folded with the pasta. 

If you plan on serving from the skillet, you can add the basil leaves and parmesan (optional) directly to it. Otherwise, transfer the eggplant pasta to a bowl and top each with a little basil and cheese – enjoy!

How to Serve?

You can serve this rigatoni alla norma alone as a light lunch/dinner. Alternatively, pair it with a leafy salad and/or some warm crusty bread or garlic bread. 

Tomato eggplant pasta in a pan

You could also turn this into an eggplant pasta bake by topping it (in the skillet or an oven-safe pan) with extra cheese and optionally some breadcrumbs and broiling/grilling for a couple of minutes. 

Alternatively, beef up the eggplant pasta with something like these mushroom meatballs

How to Store?

To store: You can store the pasta alla norma combined or store the pasta and eggplant sauce separately. Allow to cool and then store, covered, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. 

To freeze: Allow the pasta to cool completely, then transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw in the fridge before reheating. 

To reheat: If combined, the eggplant pasta can be reheated in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through. If separate, reheat the sauce as above. To reheat the pasta, add it to a pot of boiling water to heat through for around 1 minute.

Close up of pasta alla norma

FAQs

Can I use zucchini instead of eggplant?

Though this recipe is specifically for eggplant, there’s no reason why you couldn’t use zucchini instead. The cooking times will vary slightly (as you want them to cook without becoming too soggy). You could also combine the eggplant with zucchini. 

Can I make vegan pasta alla norma?

You sure can. Other than the optional parmesan ‘finish,’ this dish is already naturally vegan. Feel free to omit the cheese entirely or use a little nutritional yeast for some cheesy flavor.

Do you need to salt the eggplant?

No – I’ve done several tests and have found that I prefer the taste and texture of baked/air-fried eggplant when there is no pre-salting. These days, bitterness isn’t as much of an issue – though you can avoid this further by using smaller eggplant, which tends to have fewer seeds (which carry bitterness). The only time I recommend salting is when you deep-fry it.

Tomato eggplant pasta

Recipe Notes and FAQs

  • Use high-quality tomatoes: These make up a majority of your sauce, so use whole tinned tomatoes like Italian San-Marzano. Whole tomatoes are usually better quality than pre-chopped/crushed. 
  • Adjust the heat: By adjusting the amount of red pepper flakes added. You can, optionally, omit them entirely for no spice. 
  • Save some pasta water: This will help the sauce to adhere to the pasta better and create a silkier mouth-feel to the dish. 
  • Be careful when cooking the eggplant: Different varieties will take less/more time to cook properly, so you may need to adjust my suggested times. 

Other Meat-Free Pasta Dishes

If you try this pasta alla norma recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts/questions below. Also, I’d really appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

Tomato and Eggplant Pasta (Pasta Alla Norma)

5 from 9 votes
By: Samira
Pasta alla norma combines baked or air-fried eggplant with a homemade tomato sauce, pasta, and parmesan for a hearty, wholesome, comforting meal! Best of all, this tomato and eggplant pasta recipe is meat-free and can be made gluten-free and vegan in under 40 minutes!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 pound eggplant
  • 14 oz peeled plum tomatoes tinned (like Italian San Marzano)
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste or sub plum tomatoes and paste for passata
  • 7 oz pasta rigatoni or your choice of pasta
  • 1 onion optional
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • few leaves basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp oregano optional
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes optional

Instructions 

Step 1: Prepare the eggplant

  • Clean and dice the eggplant into around 1-inch pieces.
  • Drizzle with oil and toss well to coat the pieces (in a bowl or straight on a parchment-lined baking sheet).
  • Place the eggplant pieces in a single layer, either on a parchment-lined baking sheet or in an air fryer.
    Oven: Cook for 25-35 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 400ºF/200ºC, flipping once halfway.
    Air fryer: Cook for 15-20 minutes at 400ºF/200ºC, flipping once halfway (or at least shake the basket).
    There’s no need to pre-salt the eggplant unless you plan on deep frying the eggplant.

Step 2: Prepare the pasta

  • Meanwhile, as the eggplant cooks, cook the rigatoni pasta according to the pasta instructions. I like to undercook it by 2-3 minutes as it will cook further when combined with the sauce. That way, you can avoid over-done pasta.
    Make sure to save some of the pasta sauce to add to the sauce. The starch in the water will add a little silkiness, can dilute the sauce if needed, and helps it to adhere better to the pasta.

Step 3: Prepare the tomato sauce

  • Finely chop the onion and garlic (do this in the last 5 minutes of the eggplant baking time). Then add them to a large pre-heated skillet over medium heat and allow them to saute for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste and spices and stir well to combine before adding the peeled plum tomatoes (the sauce included). Mash the tomatoes lightly with your spoon and stir well.
  • I added some chopped basil stems to the sauce, too, though it’s not necessary. Then add the cooked eggplant and pasta and stir well. Give it a quick taste and adjust any of the seasonings if needed.
    Alternatively, you can keep the pasta to one side and serve the bowls of pasta with the tomato and eggplant pasta sauce served over the top, rather than folded with the pasta.
  • If you plan on serving from the skillet, you can add the basil leaves and parmesan (optional) directly to it. Otherwise, transfer the eggplant pasta to a bowl and top each with a little basil and cheese – enjoy!

Video

Notes

  • Use high-quality tomatoes: These make up a majority of your sauce, so use whole tinned tomatoes like Italian San-Marzano. Whole tomatoes are usually better quality than pre-chopped/crushed. 
  • Adjust the heat: By adjusting the amount of red pepper flakes added. You can, optionally, omit them entirely for no spice. 
  • Save some pasta water: This will help the sauce to adhere to the pasta better and create a silkier mouth-feel to the dish.
  • Be careful when cooking the eggplant: Different varieties will take less/more time to cook properly, so you may need to adjust my suggested times.
 

Other Optional Add-ins and variations:
  • ‘Cheat’ sauce: If you want an even quicker, more effortless pasta alla norma, then you can use a high-quality pre-made marinara sauce. Optionally tweak the flavor with a bit of garlic powder and onion powder. 
  • Lower-carb: Feel free to swap out the pasta for vegetable noodles like zoodles or carrot noodles. 
  • Balsamic vinegar: Just a dash of balsamic vinegar can add depth to the pasta sauce.
  • Tangy element: Olives are a great addition to this eggplant pasta sauce, especially if you don’t plan on using cheese. This is because the olives will add a salty element to the dish then. You could alternatively use capers. 
You could also add in extra veggies, though the dish will turn away from pasta alla norma, then. My favorites include bell peppers, zucchini, spinach, etc.
Course: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Freezer friendly: 3 Months
Shelf life: 3-5 Days

Nutrition

Calories: 560kcal, Carbohydrates: 105g, Protein: 18g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 950mg, Potassium: 1319mg, Fiber: 14g, Sugar: 19g, Vitamin A: 574IU, Vitamin C: 31mg, Calcium: 146mg, Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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