Pasta alla Norma with Homemade Simple Marinara Sauce
Sinnergy Wellness Group &
SWEAT Nutrition Partner
This fabulous pasta dish is simple with a hearty mix of flavors. It includes a homemade marinara sauce that can be used for endless recipes, and is so easy to make! The best part is that you can make multiple batches, freeze it and have it ready to go as you would canned marinara. Not to mention, the sodium content is much lower compared to store bought, and you can spice it up to make it your own!
The Pasta alla Norma includes eggplant, which is a perfect vegetable for pasta dishes and adds variation to a typical bowl of pasta. In this meal, you get all food groups, including grains, vegetables and protein. This would pair wonderfully with a side salad, using arugula or romaine lettuce. You can make it with white or whole wheat pasta, or even mix the two!
Pasta is NOT “bad” (remember there are NO bad foods)! Enjoying a bowl of pasta helps fuel the body just like any other meal would as it is loaded with nutrients and energy! Many people avoid pasta thinking it is “bad” because it is higher in carbohydrates, but little do they know that depriving themselves of a perfectly safe and normal food is actually worse! Enjoy this cozy bowl of healthy pasta tonight!
Super Simple Marinara Sauce
1 large can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes*
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
2 large cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional, omit if sensitive to spice)
Salt, to taste (if necessary)
Optional, for serving: Cooked pasta, grated Parmesan cheese or vegan Parmesan, chopped fresh basil, additional olive oil
Pasta all Norma
1 batch Super Simple Marinara Sauce (recipe above), or 2 cups (16 ounces) store-bought marinara
2 medium eggplants (about 2-¼ pounds total)
¼ cup + 1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp fine salt, more to taste
8 ounces rigatoni, ziti or spaghetti
½ cup chopped fresh basil, plus a handful smaller basil leaves or torn leaves for garnish or 2 tsp dried basil
½ to 1 tsp red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
½ tsp dried oregano
¾ cup (1.5 ounces) finely grated Parmesan cheese
Super Simple Marinara Sauce
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the tomatoes (with their juices), halved onion, garlic cloves, olive oil, oregano and red pepper flakes (if using).
Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of oil float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, and use a sturdy wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes against the side of the pot after about 15 minutes has passed.
Remove the pot from the heat and discard the onion. Smash the garlic cloves against the side of the pot with a fork, then stir the smashed garlic into the sauce. Do the same with any tiny onion pieces you might find. Use the wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes to your liking (you can blend this sauce smooth with an immersion blender or stand blender, if desired).
Add salt, to taste (the tomatoes are already pretty salty, so you might just need a pinch). Serve warm. This sauce keeps well, covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days. Freeze it for up to 6 months.
Pasta alla Norma
If making your own marinara: Cook the sauce per instructions. If it’s done cooking before you’re ready to assemble, cover the pot and keep it warm over very low heat. If you’re using store-bought marinara, warm it in a pot over medium-low heat while you cook the pasta.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two large, rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
Use a vegetable peeler to shave off long alternating strips of eggplant peel. The eggplants will look striped like zebras when you’re done. Then slice the eggplants into ½-inch thick rounds, discarding the end pieces.
Place the eggplant on the lined baking sheets. Brush the rounds with olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle the eggplant with the salt and plenty of pepper. Roast until deeply golden and tender, about 40 to 45 minutes, flipping after 20 minutes. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Reserve some pasta cooking water before draining (about ½ cup should be plenty), then return the pasta to the pot.
When the eggplant is done and the marinara is finished cooking (or warmed through, if using store-bought), gently stir the roasted eggplant into the sauce. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil, fresh basil, red pepper flakes (skip if you don’t like spice, or load it up if you do). Crush the dried oregano between your fingers as you drop it in.
Add the pasta to the sauce with a couple tablespoons of the reserved pasta cooking water, and gently stir it in. Add about two-thirds of the cheese, reserving the rest for garnish. Season to taste with additional salt (I usually add ¼ teaspoon more) and black pepper. You can add a bit more of the reserved pasta cooking water to loosen up the sauce, if desired.
Divide the pasta between four bowls. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the individual servings, followed by some extra fresh basil. For added richness, drizzle the servings lightly with olive oil. Enjoy! Leftover pasta will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for 4 to 5 days.