Paccheri (pronounced pakkeri) are a large tubular-shaped pasta originating from Campania and Calabria. Paccheri literally translates to ‘slaps’, which is derived from the sound they make when eaten. Paccheri were invented by Sicilian pasta makers in order to smuggle Southern Italian garlic into Prussia during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Prussian garlic was small and weak compared to the large, pungent, Italian cloves, so Italian farmers hid 4-5 cloves in each piece of paccheri and smuggled it across the northern border.
Paccheri alla Norma is a traditional Sicilian dish named for the opera Norma, written by Sicilian-born composer Vincenzo Bellini. The Norma sauce is made from aubergines grown in the outskirts of Catania, a sun-drenched commune in the east of Sicily. Tomatoes are just as important to the success of a Norma sauce - here, we use the plump and blushing San Marzano variety, whose thick flesh and sweet taste evoke the best of Italy in summer. A final scattering of Ricotta salata - a firm, salty cheese - completes this typical Sicilian dish. And we have to tell you, it really is sublime.
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