Search the Site Navigation

My hope is to inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, to try new things, to take the time to make things the homemade way and most importantly, to have fun doing it!

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Eggplant Cooking View

Oh, pasta.  Most definitely one of my favorite comfort foods.  For one thing, it’s pasta.  Carb-y and wonderful.  For another, as a self-taught cook, pasta was certainly the main type of food that helped me learn my way around the kitchen.  It holds a special place in my heart and my belly as I recall favorite recipes from my early cooking days.  Pasta is sort of a blank canvas of a meal that can be dressed up in infinite variations depending on your mood and what ingredients you have on hand.  In this way it reminds me a bit of a sandwich…stick any combination of ingredients between two slices of bread and voila, you have a meal.  Though this sort of flexibility is a huge advantage on nights when I’m scrounging the fridge and pantry to create something that can pass for a meal, it also makes pasta dishes slightly less appealing to me than they used to be.  Sort of a “been there, done that” mentality means that a pasta dish now needs to be really fantastic to truly “wow” me.

This dish wowed me.  The whole thing was great, but it was the tomato-roasted red pepper sauce that really stood out to me.  It gave the whole meal plenty of fresh flavor without being heavy or overwhelming the other components.  We love eggplant and are always looking for more recipes that include it, so this is a nice addition to our recipe box.  Next time I will probably add some sliced cremini mushrooms because really, why not?  This is a pasta dish that is well worth repeating.

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Eggplant
Yield: about 8 servings

Ingredients

2 red bell peppers
¾ cup panko
4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (about 1½ cups), divided
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
1½ lbs. eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. minced fresh oregano (or ¼ tsp. dried oregano)
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
4 cups water
12 oz. pasta shapes, such as rotini
6 oz. mozzarella, sliced thin
2-3 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

Cooking View

Directions

  • To roast the peppers, preheat the oven to 450˚ F.  Place the whole peppers in a rimmed baking dish.  Let cook, turning every 8-10 minutes, until the surface is evenly charred, about 20-25 minutes total.  Transfer the roasted peppers to a bowl, cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes to cool and loosen the skins.  Once cool enough to handle, gently peel the skins from the peppers and discard.  Seed the peppers and roughly chop.  Set aside.  Reduce the oven temperature to 375˚ F.

  • In a large skillet, combine the panko, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Toast the breadcrumbs over medium heat until lightly browned, stirring frequently.  Transfer to a bowl and let cool slightly.  Toss with ½ cup of the Parmesan.  Wipe out the skillet.

  • In a food processor or blender, combine the diced tomatoes and roasted red peppers.  Pulse briefly to combine and no large chunks remain.  Set aside.

  • Line a large plate with a double layer of paper towels.  Toss the eggplant lightly with a drizzle of olive oil.  Microwave the eggplant uncovered, about 10 minutes, tossing halfway through.  The eggplant will begin to dry and shrivel.  Let cool slightly, then toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil.

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the now empty large skillet.  Add the eggplant and cook until tender and browned, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Return the eggplant to a bowl or plate and set aside.

  • Lower the heat to medium-low and heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.  Add in the garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes.  Sauté just until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds.  Stir in the tomato-pepper mixture and 1 teaspoon of salt, and increase the heat to medium-high.  Stir in 3½ cups of water and the pasta.  Cover and cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring often, until the pasta is tender, about 15-18 minutes.

  • If the pasta seems to thick, stir in the remaining ½ cup of water.  Add in the remaining 1 cup of Parmesan and the eggplant.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to combine, then top with the sliced mozzarella.  Sprinkle the panko mixture over the top.  Bake about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the topping is well browned.  Sprinkle the basil over the top and serve.

Source

  • Jacqueline

    It really does look wonderful. I love pasta too, it really is very versatile. Beautiful photos :)

  • http://twitter.com/wvanillasugar Warm Vanilla Sugar

    What a fabulous recipe Annie! I love eggplant in pasta.

  • http://www.thelawstudentswife.com/ Erin@theLawStudentsWife

    I ADORE eggplant in pastas (just did an eggplant “no noodle” lasagna a few weeks ago..does that still count as pasta? I think yes). Baking w/ the bread crumbs on top is such a nice touch. Thanks Annie!

  • Kendra Scott

    This looks so good! Probably best for a weekend as there are so many steps! I’ve never seen the method of putting eggplant in the microwave before cooking with it. In an effort to cut down the steps could you roast the eggplant in the oven with the red peppers or is the microwave/skillet method essential to this recipe? Also, the pasta goes into the skillet uncooked with the water? I’m sure you would have indicated otherwise but I hate to assume. Thanks for your help!

  • Annie @Annie’s City Kitchen

    Your photos here are amazing! These could easily be in the best culinary magazines out there. So pretty!

  • annieseats

    Oh my goodness, you are sweet! Thank you :)

  • annieseats

    The microwave step for dehydrating the eggplant is much faster than roasting it. The point is to remove the excess water and that doesn’t happen quite the same in the oven. ATK uses this method in a few other recipes I’ve tried and it works really well. And yes, the pasta is uncooked. I know it looks like a lot of steps but I actually thought this was very easy on a weeknight. I just roasted my peppers ahead of time.

  • Katja Reise

    That makes my mouth water, seriously (and I just had dinner…)!

  • http://twitter.com/Dinnersdishes Dinnersdishesdessert

    What a perfectly comforting pasta dish. Love the addition of mushrooms idea, definitely will have to do that!

  • Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes

    Yum yum! Classic comfort food!

  • http://heartsinmyoven.blogspot.com/ Lynna

    Oh my goodness, this just screams amazing!

  • Melissa Brooker

    I don’t like eggplant, never have, but this sounds so good i may need to try it!

  • Samantha E.

    I wish I was married to an eggplant eater… this looks lovely!

  • Caroline L.

    this looks so wonderful… cheesy baked pasta – best words ever.

  • Sonja

    Annie, that opening photo is gorgeous! I love it. And the pasta sounds super delicious too :)

  • Juliann

    totally awesome. Really loved the dish and have already passed on the recipe.

  • Laura

    I just finished two servings of this for dinner at 10pm and I couldn’t wait to tell you how good it was! Even my husband said it was worth the wait. My eggplant was less than a pound, so I followed your suggestion and added mushrooms. Then I figured why not add chicken breast and zucchini too? The sauce was great, topping was great, thank you for sharing the recipe! Love eggplant, wish my eggplant was bigger as I loved it’s silky texture.

  • Aparna

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. It has quickly become my family’s favorite dish.

  • M.E.

    We had this for dinner last night and I used a sundried tomato, garlic and parmesan infused olive oil. DELICIOUS.