Eggplant is one of those foods that don’t wow us with taste on their own. Instead, this veggie (actually a fruit that eats like a vegetable) plays the “sponge” role, soaking up or taking on the flavors of whatever it’s paired with. Parmesan cheese is a favorite companion.
This vegetarian recipe is more about the roasted eggplant than anything else. I included a little chopped tomato and olive oil to provide a moisture base, but the cheesy eggplant is the star of the show. Roasting cubes makes the outsides golden brown and the insides pillow-soft, with great cheese flavor all around. Use Parmigiano-Reggiano, if you can—its taste is truly unmatched when it comes to hard cheeses.
Finely Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 large egg
- 1-1/3 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 medium eggplant, about 12 oz, peeled and cubed
- olive oil for drizzling, plus 2 tbsp
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 8 oz mini penne (or other short pasta)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes
- 1/4 cup thin basil strips
- Cubed Eggplant
- Coarsely Chopped Tomatoes
- Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place the flour in a sealable plastic bag and whisk the egg in a bowl. Combine the cheese and oregano and spread in a large baking dish or on a plate.
- Place the eggplant cubes in the flour and shake to coat. Dip the pieces in the egg, let excess drip off, then roll the cubes in the cheese mixture, coating all sides.
- Floured Eggplant in Egg
- Eggplant in Cheese Mixture
- Place the coated eggplant in a single layer on the baking sheet and drizzle lightly with oil. Season with salt and pepper.
- Bake until golden brown outside and tender inside, 10 minutes, turning halfway through.
- Eggplant Cubes Ready to Roast
- Eggplant after Turning
- Roasted Eggplant
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente, 7-8 minutes. Drain.
- Heat a large, deep skillet or pot over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic and shallot and sauté 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are barely tender but not broken down, 3-4 minutes.
- Add the pasta to the pan and toss to coat. Add the roasted eggplant and basil ribbons and toss lightly.
- Tomatoes Beginning to Cook
- Cooked Tomatoes
- Pasta Tossed with Eggplant
- Divide among 4 pasta bowls and serve.