dreamofitaly

This is the blog for Dream of Italy™, The Insider's Guide to Undiscovered Italy, a paid subscription travel newsletter. Dream of Italy™ (www.dreamofitaly.com) has been recommended by USA TODAY, National Geographic Traveler, U.S. News & World Report and American Way. Editor Kathy McCabe has helped thousands of travelers get the most out of their visits to Italy.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Mangia! The Story of Sicily's Pasta alla Norma

In honor of the September issue of Dream of Italy which doubles as a special report on Sicily:

Sicily is world-renowned for its distinctive and delicious cuisine, and one of the most characteristic dishes is pasta alla Norma. This pasta can be found all over the island, and is made with eggplant, fresh basil,and ricotta salata, or “salted ricotta,” a traditional regional cheese that is pressed, dried and aged for at least three months, to give it a nutty, sweet, milky flavor.

Pasta alla Norma has a story almost as great as its taste. The dish is undoubtedly named for Vicenzo Bellini, a native of Catania, and his masterpiece opera, Norma. There are two main stories of how the dish received its name, however. The first is that a Sicilian chef was so moved upon seeing Bellini’s Norma, he immediately returned to his kitchen and created this tasty pasta.

The second, and more probable, states that some of Bellini’s compatriots were so impressed by the opera that they began using the superlative una vera Norma, “a real Norma,” to indicate something exceptional or superior. Years later, when author Nino Martaglio first tasted this traditional Sicilian dish, he praised it by naming it “pasta alla Norma.” The result is a typical, delicious Sicilian dish that is as representative of the local culture as it is of the local cuisine.

Want to make pasta all Norma for the folks at home? Here's a recipe.

-- Cailin Birch

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