Country house opera may be off the cards but its accompanying al fresco feasts needn't be. Try Philippa Davis' pasta alla Norma for an evening of entertainment at home

Recreate a night of open-air opera in your own garden with an al fresco feast and family talent. Philippa Davis’ pasta alla Norma hails from Catania in Sicily and is named for the opera Norma, composed by Vincenzo Bellini. Choose an evening of perfect weather to don your finery and feast al fresco.

As you fire up the BBQ, don’t forget about the game filling the freezer. It makes excellent summer supper fare. From pigeon kebabs to butterflied venison and pheasant burgers, follow The Field’s guide to the best game BBQ recipes.


This famous aubergine, tomato and pasta dish originates from Catania in Sicily and is associated with the composer Vincenzo Bellini, who was also from the area and composed the beautifully tragic opera Norma. According to legend, Nino Martoglio, a playwright and enthusiastic audience member, exclaimed with delight upon tasting the dish: “Chista è ’na vera Norma.” (“This is a true Norma.”) And the name stuck.

Serves 6 as a starter

  • 180g small shaped pasta, such as macaroni or orecchiette
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 400g aubergine, approx
  • Pinch of dried red chilli
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 800g large tomatoes
  • 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 30g basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 dsp balsamic vinegar
  • 100g semi-hard goats’ cheese

Preheat oven to 160°C fan/350°F/gas mark 4.

Cook the pasta as per packet instructions, drain then stir through 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Leave to one side.

Stripe the aubergine with a peeler then chop into 2cm pieces and place in a large bowl.

Season with salt and pepper, then add the chilli, rosemary and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss well then roast in the oven, spread out on a flat tray, for about 30 minutes; you want them to become soft and take on a little colour. Leave to cool.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and blanch the tomatoes for about 15 seconds to split the skins.

Drain and leave to cool before removing the skin and roughly chopping.

In a saucepan, gently fry the garlic until it starts to turn golden then add half the chopped basil and fry for a few seconds before adding the peeled, chopped tomatoes and seasoning.

Cook the tomatoes on a medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring often. Take off the heat, add the balsamic and leave to cool for about 30 minutes.

When cool, mix the pasta with the aubergines, tomato sauce, cheese and rest of the basil.

This can be served at room temperature.