Spicy Eggplant Pasta

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This hearty eggplant pasta is packed with spicy flavor, fresh herbs, juicy tomatoes, and tender chunks of eggplant. A naturally vegan, vegetarian and optionally gluten-free pasta dinner that will please all appetites and is easy enough for a weeknight!

I’m all about pasta dinners. Pretty much always have been! But one thing that’s changed over the years: my preferred veggie to pasta ratio has gone way up.

My favorite pasta dishes are filled with veggies. Pasta by itself is great and all, but these days my favorite pasta sauces aren’t even really sauces — they’re more like mixes of chunky veggies with some interspersed sauce. I was looking for something along those lines when I created this eggplant pasta recipe.

While eggplant, tomatoes and fresh herbs are all in season during summer, they’re pretty much available year round these days, so you can enjoy this dish year round if you’d like.

Jump to:
  • Ingredients You’ll Need
  • Salting Eggplant
  • How this Dish is Made
  • Variation: Roasted Eggplant Pasta
  • Leftovers & Storage
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • More Vegan Pasta Recipes
  • Spicy Eggplant Pasta

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Rigatoni pasta. Rigatoni works great with this recipe because of it’s size. You can get a big forkful of pasta and veggies with every bite. Having said that, any pasta shape will work. Penne, spaghetti and capellini are all great choices!
  • Eggplant. A medium-sized Italian eggplant is ideal for this recipe, but any type will do. I used an heirloom variety (Rosa Bianca) which is why the flesh is pale purple.
  • Olive oil.
  • Onion.
  • Garlic.
  • Diced tomatoes. We’re using canned diced tomatoes. You can use the kind packed in juice or sauce — either works!
  • Crushed tomatoes. If you can’t find these at the store, simply buy an extra can of diced tomatoes and blitz them in a blender.
  • Capers.
  • Red pepper flakes. This will add some heat to the sauce (the “spicy” element of our eggplant pasta). Feel free to leave it out if you prefer a milder dish.
  • Fresh basil.
  • Fresh parsley.
  • Salt & pepper.

Salting Eggplant

You may or may not need to do this, depending on how fresh your eggplant is.

If your eggplant is very fresh, don’t worry about salting it. If it’s been hanging around for a while or shows some browning when you cut it open, you’ll probably want to salt it to remove some of the bitterness that’s developed over time.

To salt your eggplant, just dice it up according to the recipe and place it in a colander. Generously coat it with salt and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then rinse it well (get as much of the salt out as you can) and pat the pieces dry with a kitchen towel.

How this Dish is Made

The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you’d like to skip right to the recipe!

  • Boil your pasta according to the package directions, so that it’s al dente. Try to time it so that it’s finished around the same time as the sauce, although it will be fine sitting in the pot for a few minutes.
  • Brown the eggplant. Heat some oil in a large skillet, and don’t be stingy! Eggplant sucks up oil like crazy while it cooks.
  • Add the eggplant in an even layer and cook the pieces for about 10 minutes, flipping them once or twice, until they’re browned on multiple surfaces. They don’t need to be cooked completely through since they’ll also be simmering in the sauce for a bit.

Tip: You may need to cook your eggplant in batches to avoid crowding the skillet. Taking the time to do this will be worth it!

  • To make the sauce, sweat some onion in olive oil for a few minutes, until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and cook it briefly with the onion.

Tip: I like to start the sauce in a separate skillet while the eggplant cooks, but you also have the option of using the same skillet and cooking the components in succession. It’s up to you whether you’d prefer to save time or minimize dirty dishes!

  • Add diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, capers red pepper flakes, and salt to the sauce. I used a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, for a mildly spicy sauce, but adjust the amount to your liking.
  • Let the sauce simmer for a bit, until it thickens slightly, then add the eggplant and let it simmer for a few minutes more.
  • Stir in the cooked pasta, basil, and parsley. Toss everything a few times, until the herbs wilt, then take the skillet off of the burner.
  • Season the pasta with some additional salt and black pepper if desired, then serve!

Variation: Roasted Eggplant Pasta

If you prefer to roast your eggplant, simply toss your diced eggplant with olive oil. I recommend using 2 tablespoons, but less will work if you’re trying to reduce the fat content. Arrange the eggplant on a baking sheet and roast the pieces for about 15 minutes at 400°F.

Leftovers & Storage

Leftover eggplant pasta will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can this recipe be made gluten-free?

Yes! Just use gluten-free pasta.

Do I need to peel the eggplant?

Nope, but you certainly can if you’d like to. It’s really a matter of personal preference. I don’t mind skin on my eggplant.

How spicy is this eggplant pasta?

It’s about a mild/medium on the spicy scale. For a spicier version, add some extra red pepper flakes. For a milder version, leave them out.

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