How Pasta Alla Norma Supposedly Got Its Name

Pasta, pasta ... it's everywhere. The restaurant and home-cooking staple is beloved throughout the world, and TasteMade reports that Americans eat more than six pounds of it each year. With such a wide variety of flavors, shapes, and sizes, it's no wonder the food is so popular. And it's hard to choose just one pasta dish to order in a restaurant or prepare in your own kitchen because some pasta recipes are dangerously delicious

The usual suspects from the pasta world often include the creamy carbonara recipe, ginger sesame noodles, pasta e fagioli, and mac and cheese. And then, there's the famous pasta alla Norma, a Sicilian dish originating from Catania, which is Sicily's second-largest city, located under one of the most active volcanoes in the world: Mount Etna (per The Thinking Traveler). 

Pasta alla Norma consists of pasta, eggplants, tomatoes, and ricotta salata (salted ricotta) cheese. And the dish has an interesting backstory on how it got its unusual name.

Pasta alla Norma was supposedly named as an homage to an opera

According to the Sicilian Post, a Sicilian chef invented the dish as an homage to the Catanian composer Vincenzo Bellini and his two-act opera "Norma." But there's another theory about the name, too. Some say that the Catanese comedian Nino Martoglio tasted the pasta dish, and he was so pleased that he declared, "Chista è 'na vera Norma!" The phrase can be translated as "This is a real masterpiece," per Luca's Italy. Wherever the name came from, though, it's a delicious, tried-and-true classic.

La Cucina Italiana shared some tips on how to make the most authentic version of pasta alla Norma and what to look for in the process. For the pasta, use macaroni, penne, or spaghetti, and if you have none of those, use any pasta shape you want. The eggplants should be sliced or cut into strips, seasoned with salt, and left under a weight for the slightly bitter water to come out before the eggplants are fried in extra-virgin olive oil. The fresh tomatoes are cooked in water and run through a food mill, while the cheese used for pasta alla Norma is traditionally ricotta salata, a salted type of sheep's milk ricotta. 

And if you'd like to taste this masterpiece, try following Mashed's pasta alla Norma recipe. Just make sure to play Bellini's "Norma" in the background for the most authentic experience.