Who is Norma and why does she have a recipe named for her?
Bellini’s Opera, Norma, first produced in 1831, was considered to be so brilliant that his delighted compatriots started using the new superlative una vera Norma (A real Norma), which was used to praise the merits of a product or a deed.
Years later when theatrical producer Nino Martoglio tasted this typical regional dish, he was overwhelmed by its flavours, and called it Spaghetti alla Norma.
Ricotta isn’t the name of a cheese, it’s the name of a cheese-making process and means “”recooked”. Salata means ‘salted’, so Ricotta Salata is a simple salted cheese, processed in the ricotta style.
The milk curds and whey used to make this cheese are pressed and dried before the cheese is aged. The result is a pure white cheese, not at all crumbly or with that scrambled-egg texture common to what is mainly sold as ricotta.
Ricotta Salata has a dense but slightly spongy texture and a salty, milky flavour. It’s the perfect cheese to make Pasta alla Norma but if you can’t find it, use a dry feta.
Here’s a recipe for simple tomato sauce or, if you don’t have any, use a can of Roma tomatoes instead.