Although I normally cook all the time, since getting pregnant, I have pretty much been living on whatever my husband is nice enough to bring home and hand-deliver to my resting place on the couch.
Our tomatoes in the garden have been ripening for weeks and today I realized that if I didn’t get off my butt and actually cook something, they were probably going to go to waste. So, I had Brendan pick up some eggplant and some mozzarella at the store (we had most of the other ingredients already) and I set out to make this cheesy, chewy, comforting dish. I think my Italian grandma would be proud.
It turned out to be totally delicious, sort of like a cross between eggplant parmesan and baked ziti. There was only one pan to clean (besides the sheet pan, which I honestly didn’t even clean because I used a piece of parchment paper underneath the roasted veggies.) We couldn’t tell at all that it was gluten-free, and it’s definitely going to go into the regular recipe rotation.
- 12 ounces pasta (we used Jovial gluten-free)
- 2 large firm eggplants (about 2 pounds total)
- 8-10 grape tomatoes cut into halves (we used indigo cherry drops from our garden)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil for roasting
- 3 tablespoons grass-fed butter
- 1 red onion, diced
- 1 16 oz. can organic tomato sauce
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- Celtic sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
- 16 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese cut into cubes
Trim the stems off of the eggplants and peel the skin from each eggplant. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch slices, and toss into a large colander along with the 2 tablespoons sea salt. Let the eggplant drain for 1 hour in the colander with a bowl underneath to collect the water that will drain from the eggplant. Rinse the eggplant under cool running water, drain thoroughly, and pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover a baking sheet generously with the olive oil. Turn the eggplant slices and tomato halves onto the baking sheet, toss to coat with the olive oil, and spread them out in an even layer. Season with Celtic sea salt. Bake until the eggplant and tomatoes are very tender – roughly 30 minutes. Turn and stir the vegetables gently once during baking so that they cook evenly.
In a large cast-iron skillet on medium heat, add the chopped onion to 3 tablespoons of butter and let soften for about 5 minutes. Once the onion has become translucent but not yet brown, add in the sliced garlic and allow to gently sauté for no longer than one minute with just a little bit of sea salt before adding the tomato sauce and stirring the mixture together. Add about 1/2 cup of water – just enough to thin out the tomato sauce. Add in half of the torn basil leaves and the red pepper flakes to the sauce mixture and add salt to taste. Turn the heat down to low and allow the sauce to gently simmer, stirring occasionally, while you prepare the pasta.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat for the pasta. Bring to a boil, add the pasta, and season generously with salt. Cook the pasta for less time than the box suggests (for a 12 minute recommended cooking time, cook the pasta for about 8 minutes.)
As the pasta cooks, remove the tomatoes and eggplant from the oven and slice into smaller slices if desired. Before you drain the pasta, add about half a cup of the salted cooking water to the tomato sauce and stir gently. Drain the pasta and add the cooked pasta to the sauce mixture. Then, add in the roasted vegetables, parmesan cheese, the other half of the torn basil (saving just a little bit for topping,) and half of the mozzarella mixture. Stir to combine.
Top this mixture with the other half of the mozzarella cubes and roast the entire pan in the oven until the cheese melts to your desired doneness – about 20 minutes. (I prefer to lightly broil the pasta at the end so the cheese starts to get brown and bubbly.)
Remove from the oven and let cool before serving, topping with additional basil and parmesan cheese, as desired. Enjoy!