Tender pieces of eggplant are tossed together with shells, fresh mozzarella and an heirloom tomato sauce for a fresh take on eggplant parmesan in this easy weeknight pasta dish.
I have you scratching your head a little bit right now? Where’s the crispy fried eggplant? The gooey melted mozzarella? The red sauce? It’s all there, I promise, but I might have pulled a little bait and switch to lure you into this deconstructed, fresh and healthy take on eggplant parmesan.
You call it mean. I call it absolutely delicious and after one bite of this pasta dish, I think you’ll agree with me too.
Every summer when the eggplants are flowing all over farmer’s markets, I always get the urge to make eggplant parmesan. Who can really resist it, right? Fried to a crisp and covered with cheese, it’s an occasional treat that is hard to say no to. The problem is, eggplants are giant sponges and if you do it wrong, you end up with one greasy mess.
I knew there had to be a solution that would solve that issue, give the flavors that I wanted and would eliminate the mess of breading and frying. The answer was as simple as the box of pasta sitting in my pantry! Pasta is a good carb, and tossing it with vegetables, a little cheese and a fresh tomato sauce is one of my favorite healthy meals with very little work. Since I pretty much always have a box (or two) of Barilla on hand at home, it was time to get to work!
One of those pasta boxes is always Barilla Medium Shells or Barilla Collezione Orecchiette because I love how perfectly they hold vegetables and hearty sauces like the fresh sauce made from heirloom tomatoes. On top of the brightly colored tomato sauce, I finished this pasta with a pop of basil pesto. The purple from the eggplant, yellow, orange and red from the tomatoes and green from the pesto make this eggplant parmesan pasta a rainbow of colors on your plate.
I won’t lie to you, as much as I tried for this to be a quick and easy 30 minute meal, it just didn’t happen. There’s a bit of prep work involved with dicing the eggplant and tomatoes, plus you have to salt the eggplant for at least 20 minutes to drain the moisture before cooking. Promise me you will not skip this step! By salting and letting the eggplant sit, the excess moisture is drawn out and that giant sponge is no more! Instead of soaking up all the cooking oil and steaming when cooking, the eggplant will brown in the sauté pan and be full of flavor. Of course all this prep work is happening while your water is coming to a boil. The actual cooking happens pretty quickly and before you know it, you’re sitting down with the family to a hearty and delicious dinner!
For more than 135 years, Barilla has prided itself on making authentic, high-quality pastas and is committed to making it accessible for everyone to enjoy. To learn more about Barilla, please visit them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
- ½ pound (8 ounces) uncooked Barilla Medium Shells
- 3 tablespoons avocado or grapeseed oil, divided
- 1 Sicilian eggplant, cut into ½ inch dice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- ¼ cup chicken stock or dry white wine
- ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small ½ inch sized pieces
- Basil pesto (recipe to follow)
- Parmesan cheese to finish
- 1 cup fresh basil
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 tablespoon toasted walnuts
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- ½ lemon, juiced
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the pasta for 8-9 minutes for al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Spread the diced eggplant out on a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Let sit for 20 minutes and then press down with more paper towels to remove excess moisture.
- Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and drizzle 2 tablespoons of avocado oil in the pan. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the eggplant and sauté for about 10-12 minutes until soft and slightly browned.
- While the eggplant is cooking in a separate sauté pan (not cast iron), heat over medium heat with the remaining tablespoon and a half of oil and add the garlic to cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken stock or white wine and season with kosher salt and black pepper. Cook down the tomatoes for 8-10 minutes or until they are soft and release their juices. Stir in the butter, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
- To make the pesto: In the bowl of your food processor add the basil, garlic clove, walnuts, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice. Pulse until the basil and nuts are completely chopped and then scrape down the sides. With the motor running, drizzle the oil from the top until the pesto is smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Toss the pasta in with the tomato sauce to coat and then the cooked eggplant and diced mozzarella. The heat from the pasta and sauce will melt the mozzarella slightly.
- Divide the pasta between 4 plates and top with a dollop of pesto and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
This post is sponsored on behalf of Barilla. As always all opinions are my own and thanks for supporting brands that I work with.
Original article: Eggplant Parmesan Pasta
©2015 The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen. All Rights Reserved.