You can make this classic by roasting or sauteeing the eggplant, but the pasta is truly over-the-top delicious when you fry the eggplant. Really, how often do you eat fried foods? Go ahead and try it. If you heat your oil to the proper temperature (I usually get mine to between 350-380 degrees), the eggplant will not absorb as much oil as you might expect. Drain it on newspaper or brown paper bags, then add it to the tomato sauce. But before you do, sprinkle a little salt on a few pieces and have them as a chef's snack!
I generally peel the eggplant partially if it's one of the large globe eggplants, by peeling strips away, alternating peeled strip/not peeled strip/peeled strip all the way around, kind of like a vertical candy cane. I cut the eggplant in very thick planks and salt it, then put in a colander with a big ziploc bag full of water to keep it pressed down (make sure your bag doesn't have a hole!).
I don't fry the eggplant when I make pasta alla norma. After draining the eggplant I rinse quickly to get the excess salt off then pat dry well with paper towels. Then I cut into cubes which is why I slice it in thick planks. To cook the eggplant, I heat up a skillet or frying pan with a bit of olive oil to coat the bottom well, and quickly brown the eggplant over high heat, just enough to color it. If you don't want to use any oil this would work in a nonstick pan.
Then I remove the eggplant and proceed with the sauce.
i love this dish. i usually cube the eggplant and roast it in the oven in a cast iron skillet with just a thin coat of olive oil until the cut sides get some color and it is cooked through. i have been getting pretty small eggplants and not bothering with salting them. they will brown nicely if the moisture isn't leaching out from the salt.
make a simple tomato sauce separately and then just incorporate the eggplant at the last minute. i like it with penne or rigatoni, parsley and plenty of parm.
i've been getting eggplants every week from my CSA, now i think i'll make some Norma, too. thanks for the inspiration.
I like to use Japanese eggplants and sliced them into 1/4 rounds and brown both sides in a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Add a good homemade tomato sauce with garlic (without carrots or celery) and simmer until the eggplants are done but not mushy. Add some olives and basil and warm through. I don't even pit the olives but that is a preference. Can also cut the olives into slivers. Toss with cooked pasta. Sprinkle top grated ricotta salata or pecorino.
Eggplant does not need to be fried; it can be breaded and placed on a cookie sheet that has been lightly oiled or sprayed with Pam and baked. Eggplant is like a sponge and loves to soak up all the oil! Most of the time I peel the eggplant, but that too would not be necessary if the eggplant is the type with a think skin or is very fresh. I usually lightly salt the eggplant and places the slices between sheets of papertowels for a few minutes. I have heard of Pasta Norma before but I can't recall the preparation.