I grew up in Connecticut where baked ziti, baked manicotti, lasagna, eggplant parmesan, and the like shaped my view of Italian food.
Fast forward twenty-something years, I’m living in Europe and Italy has become part of my life story. Rome and Siena were the first places I visited after moving abroad. I’d never seen anything so beautiful… until I turned thirty-seven in Venice. My husband Robert and and I chose Rome for our first couples holiday; then he whisked me away to Bellagio for my thirty-ninth birthday and proposed with an antique ring on a hill overlooking Lake Como.
I had many wonderful experiences during those trips, but what I remember most (aside from that epic marriage proposal) is the food. It was nothing like the Italian food I grew up on. It was simple, rustic, and used a lot less cheese.
Food figured prominently into our Bellagio trip. For my birthday, Robert’s parents arranged a cooking class. While sipping generous glasses of Prosecco, I learned how to make bruschetta, ravioli, brown butter and sage sauce, roasted tomato sauce, and tiramisu. And our little Bellagio hotel had the most wonderful chef who made the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever eaten and lovely simple dishes in the evening. One of her dishes was Penne alla Norma, which is actually Sicilian.
Every time I make this recipe, Robert says, ‘it tastes like we’re back in Bellagio.’ So if you’re curious about what being in Bellagio tastes like, give this recipe a try 🙂
- 1 medium - large eggplant
- olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves pressed
- 15 or so ounces of canned diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup water
- 11 ounces of pasta
- 10 or so torn basil leaves*
- grated cheese
- salt & pepper
Slice your eggplant into 1/3-inch or so slices. Lay the slices on a cookie sheet, sprinkle them with salt and leave them for a couple of hours. You want to draw as much water as possible out of the eggplant.
Rinse the eggplant, then pat it dry.
In a large skillet or wok, heat about half an inch of olive oil over medium/medium-high heat, then fry the eggplant in small batches until it's soft and golden, letting it rest on paper towels once it's cooked. Don't blot the eggplant to remove excess oil, the olive oil is an integral part of the dish.
Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil from your skillet. If you were cooking on medium-high heat, reduce it to medium. Add the garlic and sauté it just until it's fragrant, then add the tomatoes, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Let it simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In the meantime, cook your pasta. Most types of pasta will work, penne is the traditional and probably most elegant option, but I also like rotini because I think it grips the sauce better than penne.
Stir the fried eggplant and the basil leaves into the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with some of the pasta cooking water. Then stir in the pasta, and serve it with grated cheese, our favorite is Grana Padano.
*If you don't have fresh basil on hand, substitute 2 teaspoons of dried basil, but I really suggest using fresh basil for this recipe.
Sage has been an American expat since 2010. She lives with her English husband in Aarhus, Denmark, a.k.a. ‘the happiest city in the world.’
Sage is a freelance copywriter and editor for some of the world’s biggest brands. She writes about food, travel, and expat living on her blog, Sage & Simple, which has been named “Denmark’s Top Expat Living Blog’ by InterNations and ExpatBlogs.
She loves London, cooking from scratch, falafel, antique jewelry, secondhand shopping, Joni Mitchell,and Opie, the ginger tomcat she’s had since he was five weeks old.
Danielle from Creatively Homespun, Audrey at That Recipe, and Ashley from Forgetful Momma are our co-hosts for September.
Please make sure that you follow them in at least one way! They will be commenting on and pinning many of your posts.
We would love to have you link up to three of your old or new food posts!
Here are just a few requests for this linky:
- PLEASE follow the hosts and co-hosts of this party through one of their social media listed below. They visit your post, leave a comment, and pin your post. Just pick one (or more) of the options below and please follow them.
- Please make sure you link up only food-related posts that have never been linked up here before or they will be deleted. Posts containing alcohol also will not be pinned.
- Try to visit a couple of blogs and leave a comment or share their posts.
- Place this button or a link to this post somewhere on your site–either on the actual post or on your sidebar or on your party page.
- As a thank-you for linking up, we will pin your recipe to the Tasty Tuesdays at Creative K Kids Pinterest board. Please follow the board to see all the great food recipes!
- By linking up, you agree to let any of the hosts or co-hosts use your pictures and links if they decide to feature your post. Your photo may also be used for promotion on any of their social media outlets.
- If you include your e-mail in the linky form below you will be added to a weekly reminder e-mail when the link party goes live. Your e-mail will not to added to any other lists or given out.