Certain vegetables go a little further than others in creating “meaty” texture in vegan recipes. Mushrooms, root vegetables, and legumes are all brilliant in this department. Eggplant is extra special, because it contributes meatiness without weighing a dish down the way an overload of beans or lentils sometimes can. It’s versatile, nutritious, and it absorbs flavors easily, so it’s a perfect choice for spicy, bold dishes.
This pasta showcases all of eggplant’s most magical properties. Roasting the eggplant brings out its natural sweetness and tenderness, while combining it with a savory tomato sauce gives it a chance to soak up garlic, oregano, and spicy red pepper flakes. The dish is hearty, satisfying, and easy to whip up–even on a weeknight. It's as crowd pleasing as it is vegetarian friendly.
If eggplant’s not for you, you can substitute roasted or sautéed mushrooms and mix them into the sauce in step 3. Lentils would also be a nice addition, as would roasted zucchini in the summer. Like many pasta dishes, this one welcomes a little creative interpretation. —Gena Hamshaw
Test Kitchen Notes
Featured in: How to Turn 7 Eggplants Into a Week of Meals. —The Editors
- Prep time 30 minutes
- Cook time 20 minutes
- Serves 4 to 6
1 1/2 teaspoons
salt, plus more as needed
olive oil, divided
freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
medium onion, chopped
cloves garlic, minced
chopped plum tomatoes or one 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
fresh oregano, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dry oregano
red pepper flakes, plus extra for finishing
fresh, chopped basil, plus extra for finishing
- Cut the eggplants crosswise into 1-inch thick slices. Lay the slices on a baking sheet, salt them well on both sides, and set aside for half an hour or so.
- Preheat the oven to 425° F.
- Drizzle two tablespoons of olive oil over the eggplant, tossing the slices to coat them. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheets and roast them until they're tender and browning, about 20 minutes.
- While the eggplant roasts, heat remaining tablespoon of the olive oil on low heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions and the minced garlic and sautée them until onions are soft (8 to 10 minutes). Add the tomatoes, oregano, pepper flakes, and basil. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, till the sauce has thickened up (approximately 10 to 12 minutes). When the eggplant is ready, remove it from the oven, chop it into 1-inch pieces, and add it to the sauce. Continue to simmer gently on very low heat.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta and gently fold in the sauce. Top the pasta with additional chopped basil and red pepper flakes to taste. Serve.