Named after the opera by Vincenzo Bellini and created in Catania at the base of the imposing Mount Etna and along the shores of the sparkling Ionian Sea, Pasta alla Norma is one of Sicily’s most adored dishes. Fresh-made tomato sauce is combined with fried eggplants, fresh basil, and the exquisite creamy saltiness of Ricotta Salata – a classic cone-shaped cheese that is made with either goat or cow milk that is heated to 85°-90°C. For a slightly sweeter version, you can also follow the recipe from Messina that uses Ricotta Infornata, another typical Sicilian delicacy that is made with ricotta that is baked about one or two days after it is salted.
To take this exquisite dish to the next level all we need is the perfect wine pairing that will bring out its salty sweetness and really make our mouths sing. Try wines made with grape varieties such as Negroamaro, Alicante, Nero d’Avola, or Syrah.
Here, Sensorial Wine Analyst Luca Maroni offers some suggestions for wines to try with Pasta alla Norma.
Pasta alla Norma with a blend of Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera – Anticaia Salice Salentino Rosato 2017 Cantina San Donaci
“The fruit in a glass of Cantina San Donaci is much clearer and livelier in terms of oxidation. A great fruit according to the volume and the viscous thickness that its appearance offers first to the taste and then to its tactile examination,” notes Maroni. Paired with this dish the wine is characterized by its freshness, smoothness, softness, and versatility. Intense hints of fresh fruit such as strawberry, cherry, pomegranate, plum and floral hints of wild rose emerge on the nose.
Pasta alla Norma with a blend of Nero d’Avola, Alicante, and Nocera – Hièra Rosè 2017 Hauner
“As the tenor of both smoothness and fragrance rises, the great extractive richness of Hauner’s wines becomes increasingly evident. The wine is of great clarity and is most vivid, with lasting turgidity.” says Maroni. Hièra Rosè, a fresh rose wine made of Alicante, with an intense claret pink hue, to the nose expresses intriguing notes of red fruits enriched by balsamic and mineral hints. To the palate it is crisp, with good acidity and pleasing persistence.
“An olfactory mélange of great class, a balm between cassis and minty vanilla that has vigor and pure intensity in the expression for the crystallinity of the gifts of oak, for the vivacity, the oxidative novelty, and the clarity of the scent of fruit. Really creamy, its opening goes long on the palate, with tannins that offer texture, wrapping up with a final aroma that is soft and spicy. Carefully, rigorously and technically excellent, this is where oenology and viticulture come together to achieve great harmonious souplesse.”
Pasta alla Norma with a Syrah – Sole di Sesta 2015 Cottanera
“Etna at its most fruit fulgoric in Cottanera’s glass. This wine is an absolute champion in terms of fruit and is firmly among the best reds in Italy. Concentration at its best, there is an amazing violetness. A majestic wine, with a creaminess and persuasive taste that is truly perfectly enveloping, with great softness on the nose, and a sweetness that enhances its deep color.”