Make Ahead

Eggplant Baked Pasta (Riggidanella)

July 22, 2014
3 Ratings
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

When you need to feed a hungry Italian family, turn to baked pasta, or "pasta al forno." Prepared in advance, this low maintenance dish is also very forgiving and has the ability to feed many hungry bellies in one go. It's a must at any family gathering, in any of the regional forms it comes in, from lasagne to this riggidanella from Calabria. —Emiko

What You'll Need
  • 2 medium-sized eggplants
  • Salt
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  • 1 bottle (750 milliliters, or about 25 ounces) tomato purée (tomato passata)
  • 1 small piece of dried chile, chopped finely (or 1 teaspoon dried chile flakes)
  • A handful of basil leaves
  • 1 pound (500 grams) rigatoni, maccheroni, mezze maniche, or other similar short pasta
  • 2 cups (500 milliliters) milk, warmed
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • Olive oil for frying
  1. Prepare the eggplants by cutting off their tops and slicing them lengthwise (about 1/3 inch or 1 centimeter thick). Sprinkle salt on them and let them drain on paper towels. Leave for 2 hours, then rinse salt off and pat completely dry with paper towels before deep frying in about an inch of olive oil until they are golden. Drain the oil off on paper towels and set aside until needed.
  2. Prepare a tomato sauce by gently sautéeing the garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until fragrant but not colored. Add the tomato purée, chile, and basil leaves, and cook for about 5 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt.
  3. Cook the pasta by boiling it in a large pot of salted water until al dente -- you want to aim for slightly underdone, as it will have a chance to cook longer in the oven. Drain the pasta and toss with the tomato sauce. Set aside until needed.
  4. Make a béchamel sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook for about a minute, stirring frequently. Add the milk slowly, stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Cook until the sauce has thickened and heavily coats the back of a spoon. Season with a pinch of salt and set aside until needed.
  5. Lightly grease a large casserole dish (or individual ramekins) with olive oil and layer the bottom and sides with the eggplant slices. Fill with a layer of pasta, followed by a layer of béchamel and a layer of eggplant and continue until you finish the last layer with béchamel.
  6. Bake in the oven at 350º F (180º C) for 20 minutes or until browned on top. You also want the dish to firm up enough so that you can invert the pasta bake onto a serving dish, if desired. Otherwise, tuck right in and serve it straight from the casserole dish.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Claire de la Lune
    Claire de la Lune
  • juntt
  • Emiko
  • Darian

9 Reviews

Darian December 30, 2019
This was GREAT! I made one large casserole dish instead of individual ramekins so it wasn't quite as pretty as your photos, but the flavor more than made up for that. I really enjoyed the combination of eggplant, tomato sauce and bechamel.
Joyce May 20, 2019
This looks wonderful! However, not a fan of bechamel - any thoughts for either substitution or omitting entirely?
Claire D. September 29, 2015
this is so so delicious!!! one q- do you happen to know if the finished molds freeze and defrost well? my market is selling super discounted eggplants so i was hoping to make this recipe in bulk...
Emiko October 1, 2015
I've never frozen this but I imagine it would freeze quite well, much like lasagne and other pasta bakes do, where you could just pop it directly back in the oven to warm up...
Meredith July 27, 2015
Would it be possible to substitute pesto for the tomato sauce? Or does it need the moisture?
Vivi September 3, 2014
yup, I see it now:) Thank you!
Vivi September 2, 2014
recipe may want to mention when to add red sauce.
Emiko September 2, 2014
It does - step 3.
juntt July 23, 2014
i LOVE eggplant! thanks for the recipe! =D i think i'll try it out and substitute the pasta with gluten free ones for personal health concern/need.