Roasted Eggplant Pasta

This eggplant pasta is flavor-packed with roasted eggplant & zesty marinara sauce! An impressive plant based dinner, it works for weeknights or parties.

Eggplant pasta

Meet your new favorite dinner recipe. Yes, this eggplant pasta has got it all! It’s packed with savory and zesty flavor: tender roasted eggplant, zesty marinara sauce, and peppery basil. It’s 100% plant-based, but lacking nothing in the flavor department. Even better, this Mediterranean-style dinner is incredibly versatile: it works for weeknights and for serving to company! (Like your favorite jeans that work for going out or staying in, right?) There’s something about it that’s cozy but elegant at the same time. Curl up with your honey and make it on an evening in…or serve it on a big platter as a family dinner!

Roasted eggplant

First, you’ll make roasted eggplant.

The first time we made this roasted eggplant, I took one bite and shouted “Wow!” (We love recipes like that.) I expected it to be good, but not that good. Roasting eggplant breaks it down into silky, savory tender goodness. Even with no flavoring, it tasted incredible. We dressed it up with a little grated garlic and chopped basil to take it over the top. You can serve this as a side dish, but it was so good we had to make it into this eggplant pasta. Here’s how to make Roasted Eggplant:

  • Chop: Cut 2 eggplants into 1-inch diced pieces.
  • Mix with olive oil and salt: Mix with 1/4 cup olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Eggplant soaks up the oil in an instant, so mix it right as soon as the oil hits its flesh.
  • Roast at 425 degrees: Roast for about 30 to 35 minutes until the eggplant is browned and tender. Because eggplant has so much water, it will deflate quite a bit. The roasted pieces come out much smaller!
Eggplant pasta

No salting and draining for this eggplant pasta! Phew.

Many eggplant recipes call for letting the eggplant drain with salt on it for 1 hour to extract some of the bitterness from the eggplant. If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered: is this extra step really necessary?

You’re in luck: it’s not! According to Epicurious, salting eggplant used to be conventional practice with eggplants years ago because they were more bitter. Today’s eggplants are bred to be less bitter, so there’s no need to waste an hour salting the eggplant. Now we know!

Easy marinara sauce

While it’s roasting, make the marinara.

This eggplant pasta is all about components. Roast the eggplant, make the marinara, boil pasta, and then stir them all together. Voila: dinner! The nice part about the component approach is it teaches you how to make 3 different things: roasted eggplant, marinara sauce, and eggplant pasta. You can serve the roasted eggplant as a side dish, or use the marinara as a pasta sauce in many other dishes.

This recipe stars our Easy Marinara recipe, which we designed to be quick and ultra flavorful. Here are the key elements to the sauce:

  • Fire roasted tomatoes: The flavor of fire-roasted tomatoes is sweet and mild, and they require less cooking than other canned varieties. (If you can’t find them, use the best quality canned tomatoes you can find.)
  • Garlic powder: As a shortcut to fresh garlic, this sauce uses garlic powder so you don’t have to dirty a knife. It melds in perfectly and adds great flavor.
  • Fresh basil: Fresh basil makes everything taste better! If you’re not growing it in your garden, look for it near the other fresh herbs in the grocery.
  • Balsamic vinegar: A hint of balsamic vinegar rounds out the flavor: it makes a subtle but important difference!
Mafaldine pasta

Cook this eggplant pasta to al dente. Please!

You absolutely must cook the pasta for this eggplant pasta to al dente. A lot of home cooks mess this up, resulting in limp pasta. What’s al dente? In Italian it means “to the bite.” It refers to pasta that is still firm on the inside when cooked. The ideal al dente texture is a tender exterior balanced by a firm bite with a fleck of white at its core. Here are our tips on how to cook pasta to al dente:

  • Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water.
  • While cooking, check pasta continually for doneness.
  • As soon as the pasta has a tender exterior but a fleck of white at its core, drain it! Even a few seconds can be the difference between al dente and limp noodles.

What type of pasta to use?

Honestly, you can use any type of pasta for this eggplant pasta! It works with any type of long or short noodles. The noodles we used are a fancy noodle called mafaldine that we found at our local grocery. Mafaldine pasta is a ribbon-shaped pasta with wavy edges on both sides, almost like a long and thin lasagna noodle. But really any noodle works! Here are some options:

  • Long pasta shapes: Spaghetti, fettuccine, linguine, bucatini, pappardelle, mafaldine
  • Short pasta shapes: Penne, rigatoni, shells, campanelle, fussili, spirali, radiatore, orechiette, farfalle, rotini, gemelli
Capers

The final flavor secret: capers!

The last thing you need to know about this eggplant pasta: capers add the final flair! What are capers? Capers are a berry of the caper bush that’s native to the Mediterranean. They’re round and dark green gray, about the size of a peppercorn.  You’ll find them in Italian and Mediterranean recipes, most well known in chicken piccata. They’re served pickled, and you’ll find them in jars near the olives.

What’s so great about capers? They taste tangy, briny and salty, and add big flavor to any dish. Since this is a vegan pasta dish, instead of adding Parmesan cheese for salty savory flavor, we’ve added capers. If you’ve never cooked with them, prepare to fall in love.

Eggplant pasta

This eggplant pasta recipe is…

Vegetarian, plant-based, vegan, and dairy-free. For gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta.

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Mafaldine pasta with eggplant

Roasted Eggplant Pasta


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (89 votes, average: 4.06 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x

Description

This eggplant pasta is flavor-packed with roasted eggplant & zesty marinara sauce! An impressive plant based dinner, it works for weeknights or parties.


Scale

Ingredients

For the roasted eggplant

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium to large eggplants (about 2 pounds)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or Italian parsley
  • Freshly ground pepper

For the pasta

  • 1 recipe Easy Marinara Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 pound long pasta noodles: spaghetti, fettuccine, linguine (gluten-free as desired)*
  • Fresh basil, to garnish (leftover from the marinara recipe)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Roast the eggplant: Cut the eggplant into 1-inch chunks. Quickly mix with olive oil and kosher salt and fresh ground pepper (the eggplant soaks up the oil in an instant, so mix as soon as you add it). Place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, until browned and very tender, gently stirring the sheet at about the 25 minute mark.
  3. Make the marinara sauce: Meanwhile, make the Easy Marinara Sauce. Let it simmer covered until the eggplant is done.
  4. Make the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is al dente (start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside). Then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  5. Season the eggplant: When the eggplant is done, remove it from the oven and gently toss with the garlic and herbs, making sure to spread out any chunks of garlic that stick together. The eggplant will be very tender so handle it gently.
  6. Serve: Add the drained capers to the marinara sauce. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix to combine. To serve, add noodles to a plate, then top with roasted eggplant and finely chopped basil. (If you’d like, you can add cheese: but it’s not necessary for flavor!)

Notes

*Here we used a fancy long pasta called mafaldine we found at our local grocery. You also can use any short pasta shape: it’s just as good!

  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Roasted
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Eggplant pasta

Make it a meal!

Add a salad and this eggplant pasta is a meal! Here are the best salads to pair:

  • Easy Arugula Salad The simplest salad you’ll ever make! You don’t even need to make dressing and it comes together in minutes! For plant based, try our Arugula Beet Salad.
  • Fennel Orange Salad Here’s a refreshing and easy side dish! It pairs juicy orange and the subtle licorice essence of fennel with a citrus vinaigrette.
  • The BEST Kale Salad This is the BEST way to eat kale! A dressing of lemon, garlic and Parmesan cheese transforms kale into tangy goodness in this Tuscan kale salad.
  • Best Tossed Salad Totally customizable, this salad features colorful veggies, homemade croutons, and a variety of salad dressing options.
  • Eggplant Caponata An Italian appetizer that’s bursting with flavor! Eggplant and veggies make a tangy, garlicky spread that’s perfect over crusty bread.
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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

3 Comments

  • Reply
    Joan
    February 10, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    As an eggplant lover, I have to thank you for a creative way to incorporate eggplant into this dish. I subbed whole wheat pasta, subtracted the cheese, and had a delicious plant-based vegan dinner. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Anne Murphy
    July 9, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Made this for dinner last night w/ eggplants from our garden. It was delicious. Served it over fresh fettuccine, and used the marinara sauce. Definitely a keeper!

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      July 9, 2020 at 2:38 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it!

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