“I’m not a chef, I’m Italian”- David Rocco

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Bella Roma: Part Due; Shopping and Pasta all Norma

Ciao a tutti! Every time we travel, we make a point of leaving a few days to just wander so we don’t get too overwhelmed, I think this is usually a pretty smart choice, at least for us. So, today we decided to walk and browse in and out of some shops. My mother always told me about a department store that she went to on her first trip to Italy with her best friend when they were younger. The store is called Upim. It is basically the Italian equivalent or a Target or JCPenney. My mother and I found it on my first trip in the summer of 2011 and I was very eager to get back. This Store is so much fun!! They have clothing, makeup, accessories, home décor, jewelry…pretty much anything that women love!

I love shopping in Italy and getting brands and designers that are not available in this country, I know that may seem silly, but I get a kick out of it. I especially love buying Italian makeup and shoes! Unfortunately at Upim, you're not allowed to take pictures, so I have none to share with you. Now, enough about the shopping, let’s get to the reason why I’m here: FOOD!! 

After all that shopping, we worked up a good appetite. On our last trip, we were lucky enough to find a little outdoor café just a couple of blocks from Upim, so we decided to have lunch there again, we even had the exact same meal.

Fried Zucchini Flowers, my weakness
Pasta all Norma and a few Fried Zucchini Flowers. You just can’t go wrong. Pasta alla Norma is a favorite of mine. I love eggplant, so the chance to pair it with pasta and  ricotta salata…..mmmmmm. And it doesn’t hurt that it is also named after Vincenzo Bellini’s opera, “Norma.” The story goes that in the 19th century, Nino Martoglio, a Sicilian writer, poet and theatre director, was so impressed when he first tasted the dish that he compared it to “Norma,” Bellini’s masterpiece. It is a classic Sicilian dish from Catania, a city on the east coast of Sicily.

If you haven’t tried Pasta all Norma, I highly recommend it. What can I say? It’s just a wonderful dish. I hope you enjoy my version, please let me know what you think!

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla Norma. Doesn't it look yummy?!?

2 medium eggplants- cut into little cubes (you pick exactly how little)
7 tbsp. olive oil
Salt & Pepper (quanto basta!)
Onion- minced
1 tbsp. red pepper
4 cloves of garlic-minced
1 large can of tomatoes (I always use San Marzano tomatoes, in my opinion, they’re just the best!)
Handful of fresh basil
1 pound of rigatoni
1 cup of ricotta salata

Preheat your over to 400 degrees. Put the eggplant in a bowl and drizzle with 4 tbsp. olive oil. Add salt and pepper and toss. Put the eggplant on a baking sheet and roast for around 20 minutes or until lightly caramelized, but not burnt!!

Heat the remaining oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft, around 10 minutes. Add red pepper and garlic; continue cooking until the garlic softens. Add tomatoes, some of the basil, salt and cook for around 6-7 minutes.

Boil some water for the pasta. Once it is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente, around 9 minutes. Drain pasta and add to the tomato mix. Stir in the eggplant and toss, add the remaining basil and a little salt. Garnish with ricotta salata. As always, I LOVE to hear what you have to say! Boun Appetito!! 

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