Wednesday, the 5th of April we'll be performing with Kolding Mandskor (Men's Choir) at a charity concert for the Sct. Georgs Gilderne. It is an understatement to say we're looking forward to it! They sing so wonderfully.
We can reveal that we will perform a very special piece together - actually, they're all special - but this one has an extra story to it.
It is the aria "Casta Diva" from Bellinis opera "Norma". Now, the three of us feel very close to Bellini because he was a composer from the early 19th century who came from Catania in Sicily. And that's exactly where we've lived!
In Catania everybody is crazy about Bellini. People hum his opera melodies like others hum pop songs - even though he moved away when he was young and hardly ever returned. But he still belongs to Catania; There is an opera house named after him, with one of the world's best acoustics, parks, streets, houses - and recipes.
The recipe that will follow is named after the opera "Norma" which the aria comes from. "Norma" is about a Celtic druid priestess who has an affair and two children with a Roman officer. The Romans have conquered the land of the Celts, so he is in fact an enemy. Everything ends horribly wrong, but before that there is so much wonderful music. The aria is from Act 1, before all the bad things happen, and Norma is conducting a ceremony, cutting mistletoe and invoking the full Moon - the chaste goddess - to give peace on Earth as it is in Heaven. Her song reaches much further than the story - it is a universal prayer for peace.
But finally to the recipe! It's one of our favourite recipes, and it's called (not surprisingly) "Pasta alla Norma". We have no idea which connection there is between the opera and the ingredients (I doubt the Celts knew eggplant, after all), but both the opera and the recipe are wonderful!
Ingredients for a main course for 4 servings:
2-3 good eggplants
500 g pasta (penne rigate, rigatoni or fusilli)
400 g (or a tin) of chopped tomatoes
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled, but not chopped
Fresh basil leaves
Olive oil for the sauce and to fry with
grated parmesan/grana - actually, the real thing is "ricotta salata", a very special cheese that you can only find in Catania. Okay, some other places in Italy as well. but it's not half as good there. And it really is not normal ricotta, please don't confuse the two.
How to do it:
Slice the eggplants in 1 cm thick slices and put them in a big bowl with 2 tbsp salt. Fill with water to cover and put a plate over to press them down. Leave to soak for a few hours.
Then throw the water out and press the slices a bit more for excess water. Fry them in abundant olive oil until they are golden brown. Put them on a plate lined with kitchen roll and sprinkle them with salt. It is very important to use enough oil, otherwise they'll just get charred.
In the meantime (or beforehand) cook the tomatoes with the garlic cloves for about 15-30 min., and throw the garlic away. Season with salt. When you've finished frying the eggplants, you can pour the rest of the oil from frying into the sauce, it tastes great. If you have fresh basil, put it in now.
Cook the pasta according to the recipe on the bag and mix with the tomato sauce. Serve the fried eggplants and grated parmesan/grana along with it.
Maria, Anna and Giuly