Pasta alla Norma – Sicily in a Bowl!


March 2, 2021

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Our Sicilian guide this week, Alice Bifarelli, archaeologist and scholar and guest expert with Context Travel, wrapped up her tour of Sicily with an image of a bowl of Pasta alla Norma.

She said that this was a symbol of Sicily – an island whose various conquerors (and there were MANY) have left behind their influences making for a beautiful and distinct part of the world. Sicily didn’t ‘remove’ the impact of its conquerors but rather layered the next culture atop the last.

Thus this dish made of ::

  • EGGPLANT brought by the Arabs in the 9th century,

  • BASIL a symbol of royalty, introduced to Sicily from India most likely by Alexander the Great,

  • TOMATOES from the New World,

  • RICOTTA SALATA widely recognized as being created on Sicily, and

  • PASTA with legendary (and disproven) origins in China via Marco Polo but more likely created by the Sicilian Jews who inherited knowledge from the Arab-Norman era.

This dish truly symbolizes an utterly unique, beautiful destination on earth, and the melange of ingredients, when mixed together, results in a delicious meal with its name supposedly springing from the beloved opera Norma by Vincenzo Bellini.

The story goes that someone served this dish to Nino Martoglio, a composer and poet from Catania who lived from 1870-1921, and he was so impressed he proclaimed: Chista è ‘na vera Norma! which means, this is a true Norma.

Anything called a Norma was HIGH PRAISE.

We agree that this dish and our tour of Sicily was a norma!

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