This Baked Penne with Tomatoes and Eggplant is a flavorful and filling Italian dinner. It comes together with a quick homemade sauce, eggplants, basil and dairy-free cheese. Total comfort food in every bite, this dish is easy to make and is vegan.
Eggplants, tomatoes, and pasta baked away until they’re bubbling. The best part is the cheese melts and gets a little crunchy. Yes, even though I used vegan mozzarella shreds, it melted up like regular mozzarella.
The recipe is totally vegan. If you’d like it to be gluten-free, you could just use your favorite GF pasta to make this Italian recipe vegan + gluten-free!
As an Amazon Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases. Since I’m super passionate about high quality Italian tomatoes, I was asked to collaborate with the Greatest Tomatoes From Europe and I Love San Marzano DOP campaigns. As always, all opinions are my own.
Why should you make this?
- Eggplants are a really great vegetable to cook with for meatless Mondays, or any day of the week you want to incorporate more veggies in your diet. It’s a nice and meaty veggie. So it satisfies even non-vegans.
- Since I used dairy-free cheese, this dish is totally vegan. Use your favorite shredded mozzarella and it will be vegetarian. So either way, this is a fantastic recipe for vegans or vegetarians.
- Dinner is ready in one hour (the time to make the pasta, quick sauce + baking it up).
- This is a no-fuss recipe that everyone in the family will love. It will come together with pantry ingredients and an eggplant.
- A healthy, dairy-free, sugar-free sauce. The eggplant is sauteed in the skillet and then the tomatoes are added. The sauce is so versatile. You could even use it with grilled fish or any other protein you like.
What ingredients are in this recipe?
- Pasta-I like to use penne. Rigatoni also works fine for this recipe. Or use whatever short pasta you have on hand.
- Extra-virgin olive oil-I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to use a great quality olive oil.
- Eggplant-I used a Japanese eggplant (use a regular eggplant if you prefer). It gets chopped into small pieces to cook up easily and evenly.
- Canned tomatoes– Use whole Pomodoro San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino DOP, as it is truly the best quality. The flavor surpasses any other tomatoes.
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh basil Lots of fresh basil to stir into the sauce.
- Mozzarella-I used my favorite brand of dairy-free mozzarella shreds, but you could use regular shredded mozzarella (if you’re not vegan or dairy-free).
A little more info on how to find the real San Marzano canned tomatoes
Truly, the best tomatoes to buy are the Pomodoro San Marzano dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino DOP. They are the only authentic San Marzano tomatoes. It is a really long name, but it is the only way to know you’re getting the real deal.
The tomatoes are given two seals of approval, which guarantees the highest quality tomatoes. When you’re buying San Marzano, look for the cans to also say “pomodori pelati”, which means “Italian peeled tomatoes”.
What San Marzano brands should I buy?
- Mutti (I really love their purée in glass jars)
- La Doria
- La Valle
How to make this baked pasta recipe? (full printable directions below)
It all starts with the eggplants and tomatoes.
I cut the eggplant into cubes. Heat the oil in your skillet and once it’s shimmering, add in the eggplants. As soon as they soften a little, add in the onion.
Once the onions soften up and become translucent, add in the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the fresh basil and stir together. Let the sauce simmer while you cook the pasta.
San Marzano Dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino DOP Tomatoes are truly the best quality tomatoes.
The tomatoes are so delicate and so naturally sweet. I used my hands to break them up and they are silky smooth.
It truly smells heavenly while it’s all simmering together. While the sauce is cooking, you prep the pasta. You will be cooking it a few minutes under al dente (it will still be cooking up while it bakes in the oven).
Once the pasta is cooked (it will be chewy), add it to a bowl and stir in the eggplant sauce. You may have some extra leftover. I used a whole pound of pasta. We did have leftovers.
Add in some of the cheese (I used a vegan mozzarella shredded cheese). Add the pasta and sauce to your baking dish.
Sprinkle some more cheese on top and bake according to the recipe below.
Pasta recipe tips
PASTA-I recommend penne pasta or whatever short pasta you have on hand or enjoy. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box (each brand could vary slightly in cooking time), but make sure it’s under al dente (I cook it 3 minutes less than cooking time).
SALT-Important not to forget to salt the pasta water (I mention at end of post how much salt to use).
TOMATOES–San Marzano Dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino DOP Tomatoes are the ideal tomatoes for this recipe. You could use whatever brand you have on hand, but for the optimal flavor, the San Marzano Dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino DOP are the only authentic San Marzano and are excellent!
OLIVE OIL-As talked about earlier in post, I always recommend a better quality extra-virgin olive oil. You use just a little bit for the recipe, so go ahead and splurge… you’ll see the flavor difference.
Can I make this gluten-free?
Yes, the sauce is totally gluten-free. Just use your favorite gluten-free pasta brand.
How to serve this baked pasta recipe
The pasta is very filling on its own. It goes very nicely with a simple salad.
If you’re looking for a bread recipe to serve with it, try out this fabulous crusty no-knead Italian bread or this fantastic rosemary and caramelized onion focaccia recipe. Both recipes do take a little time to put together, but if you’re making this for guests, this will be the full meal that impresses.
How much salt to add to cook dry pasta?
For 1 pound of pasta, in 3-4 quarts of water, you should add 1-1/2 tablespoons of salt. So if it’s 1/2 pound of pasta, add 1/2 that amount of salt.
Add more or less to your taste, but keep in mind, the sauce will have a little salt. So depends on your taste.
When do you add the salt to the pasta water?
As soon as the water comes to a boil, add in the salt. Let it come to a boil again, and then add in the pasta.
Do I need to salt or peel eggplant before cooking it?
No. I usually use a Japanese eggplant for this recipe. They are typically a little sweeter. There is no need to salt or peel the eggplants. The peel is filled with healthy antioxidants.
Can I reheat the leftovers?
Yes, this is a great recipe to reheat. Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Reheat in a skillet or heat it in the oven on 350F for 10 minutes or so (until it’s heated through).
It actually tastes delicious even cold.
Some other eggplant recipes to enjoy:
- Eggplant Timbale
- Sheet Pan Eggplant and Tomato Bake
- Roasted Eggplant, Tomato and Zucchini Pasta
- Eggplant Lasagne-Lasagne di Melanzane
Just a quick request: if you enjoyed this baked penne with eggplants and tomatoes as much as we did, would you kindly leave me a 5-star rating and a short (or long!)comment–the ratings are what helps get my recipes and hard work discovered, so I can keep leaving you more delish recipes!
Your comments mean the world to me….and I really SMILE when I read them. Thank you so much! XX
Baked Penne with Tomatoes and Eggplant
- 1 pound penne or another short pasta
- 4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium eggplant diced
- 1 onion diced
- 2 teaspoons salt plus more, to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1-28 ounce can San Marzano Dell’Agro Sarnese-Nocerino DOP Tomatoes
- fresh basil leaves to taste, chopped
- 4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups mozzarella shreds I used vegan shreds
- Nonstick cooking spray for the baking dish
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water boils, salt it. Bring to another boil, and add in the pasta. Cook it 3 minutes less than the package directions. .
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large skillet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat until it’s shimmering. Add in the eggplant. Season with salt and cook until they start to soften. Add in the onion and stir together with the eggplant.
- Once the onions start to soften, add in the tomato sauce and the basil.
- Check the seasoning, and add a teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir to combine.
- Prep your casserole with nonstick cooking spray or spread some olive oil around it.
- Cook the pasta to very al dente (2 minutes less than the cooking time), drain and add it to large bowl. Add the sauce and toss together with the pasta. Stir in 1 cup of shredded mozzarella (I used the dairy-free mozzarella shreds, but use whatever you like).
- Spoon the pasta into your prepped casserole. Sprinkle on the rest of the mozzarella cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Place the casserole on top of a baking sheet (this makes it so much easier to put in and remove from oven). Cover with foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes (the sauce will be bubbling under the foil and mozzarella melting on top).
- Remove foil paper for the last 10-15 minutes of baking, until lightly crusty on top. Carefully remove from oven and let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE SALES LINKS