The Barilla Pasta “we don’t think gay families represent our values” dust-up last fall reminded me of a Barilla-sponsored luncheon I attended in ’07 or ’08. Pasta was on the plate and family mealtime was the topic at table.
Although it’s taken a while to dig into my files (i.e. piles of papers and random flash drives) I supposed that there must have been a not-rainbow-flag-friendly subtext.
Well not really. The spokesperson at Barilla’s luncheon was William J. Doherty, Ph.D., an educator whose focus is on the challenges of contemporary family life.
Dr. Doherty writes: “Same-sex marriage has stirred a new idealism in our midst. Does it matter to us what happens to newlyweds of any gender after someone signs their license? I come to this conversation as a big fan of marriage, both same-sex and straight.” Right on Dr. D.!
And Barilla, whether your apologies are the result of enlightenment or just regret over lost sales, they are welcome.
So what did Barilla at that lunch? Penne alla Norma, a hearty eggplant dish inspired by opera of the same name. Ironically Norma is a story rife with scenes of adultery, infanticide and double suicide (by fire!).
PENNE ALLA NORMA
Adapted from Barilla
- 1 1/2 pounds eggplant
- Olive oil as needed (at least 1/2 cup)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
- 3 or 4 dried chiles
- 28 oz. can Italian peeled tomatoes in juice
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 1/2 cup chopped basil
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup grated ricotta salata (or in a pinch, pecorino Romano)
- Slice the eggplant about 1/2 inch thick. Cook in abundant olive oil, without crowding, sprinkling with salt and adding more oil as needed. You will undoubtedly have to cook in batches; take your time and cook until the eggplant is nicely browned and soft. Remove to a plate; do not drain on paper towels. Meanwhile, put a large pot of water to boil and salt it.
- At the end of the cooking the eggplant, the pan will ideally have a couple of tablespoons of oil left. If there’s more or less, drain some off or add a bit. Turn the heat to medium, add the garlic and chiles, and cook until the garlic colors a little bit. Add the tomatoes and oregano, along with some salt and pepper; cook until saucy but not too dry, stirring occasionally.
- Cook the pasta until tender but not mushy. While it’s cooking, cut the eggplant into strips and reheat for a minute in the tomato sauce. Drain the pasta and toss it with the tomato sauce and the eggplant. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then top with the parsley and basil and grated cheese and serve.