Tips & Recipes

A culinary Giro d'Italia: Sicilian Pasta alla Norma

Learn how to make the meal our riders ate the night before racing up Mount Etna

May 10, 2022

After its Hungarian overture, the 2022 Giro d’Italia returns to Italy to climb its first dramatic peak.

On stage four, the peloton will race from Avola to the Rifugio Sapienza, a ski station located high on the slopes of Mount Etna, the black volcano which towers over Sicily’s sandy beaches, citrus groves, and rocky coast, often spitting lava and ash into the blue Mediterranean sky. It will be the first big test for the protagonists in the race for the pink jersey. Expect fireworks. The next stage will be no less dramatic. After a languid start by the sea in Catania, the race turns inland to climb the Portella Mandrazzi, and then heads north for a sprint-finish crescendo in the old Sicilian harbour city of Messina. The designers of this year’s Giro have created a masterpiece.

The meal that our riders ate the night before the stage up Mount Etna was named after another masterpiece. Pasta all norma was named in honour of Catania native Vincenzo Bellini, who composed the opera Norma. It is, like the best Sicilian cuisine, a simple, harmonious dish, made of pasta in tomato sauce with slices of aubergine and grated ricotta.

Quick and easy to prepare, it is only as good as its ingredients. Our team chef, Owen Blandy, always tries to include local flavour in our riders’ race meals.

“The taste of Sicily will be there for the boys,” he said, when he returned from his first Sicilian supermarket.

Ingredients

1 large aubergine

Salt

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

6 ripe tomatoes

25g basil

150g-200g pasta

2 tbsp grated ricotta salata

Serves three to four (or two hungry cyclists)

Method

Dice the aubergine and put it in a colander

Sprinkle with salt and leave to sit for 30 minutes

Heat the oven to 230C

Rinse the aubergine in cold water and pat dry, before tossing in a bowl with half the oil

Bake the aubergine for about 15-20 minutes until caramelised, turning occasionally

Meanwhile, heat the other half of the oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the garlic. Saute for a couple of minutes

Add the tomatoes and half the basil and bring to a simmer. Cook slowly for about 20 to 30 minutes until thickened

Once the sauce is almost ready, cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water to your liking


Add the aubergine to the sauce and discard the basil

Drain the pasta and toss in the sauce

Put the pasta on plates and sprinkle with the ricotta and remaining basil leaves

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