I am fairly confident that this 10-Ingredient Roasted Eggplant Pasta is the first eggplant recipe to show up on my blog. Why? Because for the longest time, I was an eggplant skeptic/hater. I had eaten way too many versions of eggplant that were chewy, dry, or slimy, and a few unimpressive eggplant parms that felt like an oily brick (eggplant) swimming in cheese and marinara sauce.
It was only recently that I started getting into eggplant, and only because I learned how to cook it properly. More on that in the next section below.
This Roasted Eggplant Pasta features tender, jammy roasted eggplant paired with pasta, zucchini ribbons, gremolata, and toasted walnuts. It’s an easy yet impressive recipe that is light yet flavorful.
We’ve been staying in an Airbnb for the last few weeks after moving to California while we search for a long-term option, so I’ve been keeping our meals (and hence, my recipes) on the simple side.
When I posted a sneak peek of this dish to Instagram, I was surprised by how many “RECIPE PLS?!” responses I received. I had assumed that most people, like former Nisha, did not like eggplant and therefore would not be interested in this dish. But, thankfully, I was wrong!
What are the different varieties of eggplant and which one should I use?
There are nearly a dozen common varieties of eggplant (there are even more heirloom and regional varieties), so let’s briefly talk about them because the variety makes a big difference in this recipe.
Globe eggplants, aka American eggplants. These are the really large globe-shaped eggplants you’ll see at most grocery stores. The flesh is meaty and tough and the skin can be tough too. I do not recommend using globe eggplants in this recipe. The meaty texture makes it better for grilling or for making eggplant parm.
Chinese eggplant. These are skinny, cylindrical shaped eggplants with a light purple/lavender skin. They are delicate and sweet in flavor, tender in texture, have a nice thin skin, and cook quickly (which is why they’re often used in stir-fries).
Japanese eggplant. These are similar in shape to Chinese eggplant but not as long or as thin, and dark purple in color. They’re also quick cooking, have a thin skin, and boast a slightly sweet taste and creamy texture when cooked. These are a good option for this recipe.
Italian eggplant. These look similar to globe eggplants, but are skinnier and shorter. In comparison to globe eggplants, they have a more tender skin, are more delicate, and sweeter. These are a good option for this recipe.
Graffiti eggplant. These are the beautiful eggplants that are violet-purple with white stripes. Some are small, some are large. They’re not as commonly found at the grocery store, though I’ve seen them at Whole Foods, and you can definitely find them at the farmers market during their season. They have nice fruity undertones and a delicate sweetness. These are a good option for this recipe.
Verdict: Choose eggplants that are on the smaller side: they have thin skins, which is best for this recipe, and tend to be sweeter and not bitter.
I like keeping some of the skin on (in a zebra stripe pattern) because it adds texture to the cooked eggplant (but I wouldn’t leave the skin on the larger globe eggplants, as their skin is often tough).
How do I select an eggplant?
A good eggplant has a shiny, taut, and smooth skin and feels rather heavy for its size. If the eggplant is wrinkled or squishy, or becomes dimpled when you squeeze, it’s a bit too old. When you lightly squeeze the eggplant, it should have a little give and spring back.
If you’re not sure what variety of eggplant you have in front of you, choose any smaller-sized eggplant. They tend to have a thinner skin and more delicate texture, which is great for this recipe.
I purchased my eggplant at the farmers market, and was told the rounder ones were similar to Italian eggplant and the skinnier ones similar to Japanese eggplant. The farmer basically told me “Pick the smaller eggplants – they are more tender and more delicious.”
When is eggplant in season?
Eggplant is in peak season in summer through fall (which is why I’m sharing this recipe right now – it’s peak eggplant season and I love cooking seasonally!). If you’re able to, I recommend purchasing eggplant from your local farmers market – as mentioned above, you’ll get more info on the eggplant variety and some tips from the farmers.
That said, globe eggplants and Japanese eggplant are usually available year round in many grocery stores.
Why you’ll like this recipe
10 main ingredients. Okay, not counting salt and pepper. But yeah, just 10 main ingredients!
Eggplant that tastes good. A lot of eggplant can be, frankly, bad. Rubbery and chewy or drowning in oil and cheese. With this technique and minimal ingredients, your eggplant will be beautifully browned and gooey, tender, and jammy.
Weeknight friendly. Though there are a few steps to this recipe, it’s fuss-free enough to make on a weeknight.
Peak seasonal ingredients. This recipe features late-summer zucchini and early autumn eggplant, which means you need fewer ingredients to get maximal flavor.
Light and fresh but flavorful. This pasta feels light and refreshing and is really simple, but it doesn’t skimp on flavor thanks to the roasted garlic dressing and gremolata.
How to Make this Roasted Eggplant Pasta
First, peel the eggplant in alternating strips to create a zebra look.
Slice the eggplant into 1 ½-inch (~4 cm) wedges, toss with a generous amount of oil, salt, and pepper and spread out on a baking sheet.
Remove the outer layers of the garlic head and slice off the top to expose the cloves. Rub some olive oil on top of the cloves and then wrap in aluminum foil to create a packet.
Roast the eggplant and garlic for 25-35 minutes at 450°F/232°C.
While the eggplant is roasting, toast the walnuts and make the gremolata. Finely chop the parsley and fresh thyme leaves, then zest the lemon. Mix it all together with some salt.
Also while the eggplant is roasting, make your zucchini ribbons. Use a Y-shaped/wide vegetable peeler lengthwise in a downwards motion to get wide vegetable ribbons. (FYI I used one large zucchini and 1 small Mexican squash, which is similar to zucchini but its flesh is more buttery than zucchini).
Once the garlic is done roasting, make the simple roasted garlic dressing. Squeeze the garlic cloves into a bowl (they should be very soft and easily slip out). Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, and whisk in the olive oil until emulsified.
The eggplant is done when it’s deeply browned on the outside, but very soft and tender on the inside.
Now it’s time to assemble the Roasted Eggplant Pasta!
Add your hot cooked pasta to a serving bowl with the zucchini ribbons and add the roasted garlic dressing, and toss to coat. Then fold in the roasted eggplant and toss to combine.
Finally, top the eggplant and zucchini pasta with the gremolata and walnuts and toss again. Before serving, drizzle a bit of tahini onto each bowl, if desired.
Tips for making this Roasted Eggplant Pasta
Don’t skimp on the oil when you roast the eggplant. I used to hate eggplant, in part, because the first few times I made it, I was in that phase of life where I thought fat was bad for you, so I used very sparing amounts of oil in my cooking. And the eggplant always came out dry and chewy, and I hated it.
This is because eggplant is a sponge – it soaks up everything, which means it needs a generous amount of oil in order to cook down and get all gooey and soft. On the other hand, it doesn’t need to and shouldn’t be drowned in oil (I’ve had my fair share of overly oily eggplant at restaurants).
Oil your baking sheet or line with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Before adding the eggplant to your baking sheet, drizzle some oil on the sheet, then add the oil to your eggplant. and toss to coat. Or, line your baking sheet with parchment paper first. Eggplant has a tendency to stick to the pan so either of these steps will help prevent that.
Eggplant likes high heat. In addition to the oil, the key to getting tender yet beautifully browned eggplant in this recipe is high heat (450°F to be precise).
The directions call for roasting the eggplant for 25-35 minutes because the exact roasting time will depend on the variety of eggplant you use (see the “what to know about eggplant” section above), as well as how hot your oven gets.
For skinnier, thin-skinned varieties of eggplant, roasting for 25 minutes at 450°F should be sufficient.
If you’re using a larger eggplant (such as an Italian eggplant), roast for 25 minutes at 450°F, then turn the heat down to 400°F and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes.
When roasting the whole garlic, if you’re not keen on putting aluminum foil directly on top of the garlic, you can first wrap the garlic in parchment paper (wrap as tightly as you can), and then tightly wrap that in foil. I find this method does require an extra 5-10 minutes of roasting than the just-foil method.
Substitutes for this Roasted Eggplant Pasta
If you don’t have walnuts, pistachios work really beautifully. If you’re nut-free, just omit the walnuts.
If you’re gluten-free, use your favorite gluten-free pasta.
To bulk up this meal with some protein, add in a can of chickpeas or cannellini beans when you add the roasted eggplant. To add more flavor to the beans, try making them crispy and spiced, like in these Za’atar White Beans. Za’atar pairs incredibly well with eggplant, but you could also do a few pinches of cumin, coriander, salt, and lemon juice.
The tahini at the end is optional. If you want something a little creamy and indulgent at the end, add it. But if you want to keep this pasta on the lighter side and let the roasted garlic dressing be the star, go ahead and omit.
If you give this 10-Ingredient Roasted Eggplant Pasta recipe a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram with your recreations and please comment with your feedback below!
- 1 pound eggplant
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Black pepper
- 2 tablespoons regular olive oil or avocado oil + extra oil for roasting garlic
- 1 small head of garlic
- 8 ounces medium-shaped pasta of choice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup Italian flat-leaf parsley (leaves and tender stems)
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 medium lemon, zested*
- 1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
- ¼ cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
- 2 medium zucchini
- 2-3 tablespoons tahini (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 450°F/232°C. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or drizzle with some oil to prevent the eggplant from sticking.
- Prep the eggplant. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the eggplant in alternating strips from top to bottom (you can peel them entirely, but I like the zebra look). Slice the eggplants into 1 ½-inch (~4 cm) thick wedges and add to the baking sheet. Drizzle with the 2 tablespoons regular olive oil or avocado oil, a generous amount of salt, and black pepper to taste. Toss well and arrange the eggplant in a single layer.
- Prep the garlic. Remove the outer layers of the garlic head and then slice off a thin layer off the top to expose the skin of the cloves. Rub the exposed cloves with a bit of olive oil. Wrap in aluminum foil to make a packet. Place the packet on the same baking sheet as the eggplant.
- Roast the eggplant for 25-35 minutes, or until the eggplant is deeply golden brown on the outside yet very soft and tender, tossing halfway through.For skinnier, thin-skinned varieties of eggplant, roast 25 minutes.For larger eggplants roast for 25 minutes at 450°F, then turn the heat down to 400°F and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes.The garlic should also take 25 to 35 minutes to roast (the garlic is done when cloves are very soft and practically oozing out of their skins).
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Bring a pot of generously salted water to boil and cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente, then drain.
- Meanwhile, make the gremolata. Finely chop the parsley, then chop the thyme leaves and mix together. Using a microplane, zest the lemon directly on top of the herbs and then sprinkle with some sea salt or kosher salt and toss to combine.
- Meanwhile, make the zucchini ribbons. Using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini lengthwise in a downwards motion to get wide vegetable ribbons. Once you get to the core, it will be hard to continue shaving. Save the core for another use, like stir-fries or freeze it for smoothies.
- Make the roasted garlic dressing. When the garlic is done roasting and is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves into a small bowl. Mash with a fork, add in the lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk together, and then drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil and whisk until emulsified.
- Assemble the pasta. Add the hot cooked pasta to a serving bowl and add the zucchini ribbons. Sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt and pepper, then dress with the roasted garlic dressing and toss to combine. Add the roasted eggplant, and toss to combine again. Top the eggplant pasta with the gremolata and toasted walnuts. Transfer to serving bowls and top each bowl with a drizzle of tahini, if desired.