Penne pasta is tossed in rich, well-spiced eggplant and tomato sauce with fresh basil and grated sharp cheese. This is a super satisfying vegetarian pasta dish that's easy to prepare and the flavors are amazing.
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
- 1 medium eggplant ( 1 1/2-pound), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 8 large white mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion (1 small onion)
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth
- 28-ounce can imported Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 12-15 fresh basil leaves, slivered
- 1 pound dried penne pasta
- Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, to taste
- Put the oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, over medium heat. Sauté the garlic, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 4 minutes. Remove garlic (you will not need it for this dish).
- Add the eggplant, mushrooms, onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the pot and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft and just starting to brown, about 12 minutes.
- Add wine and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes, oregano, remaining half teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper, and return to a boil. Immediately lower to a simmer and cook, partially covered (to reduce splattering), for 15 minutes. Stir in half the basil and remove from heat. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired.
- While the sauce is simmering, cook the penne in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
- Drain the pasta and return it to its cooking pot. Add 1/2 cup of the eggplant sauce and toss the pasta with the sauce, over medium heat, for a minute or so, until hot and fully combined. Pour the pasta into a serving bowl or divide it among individual serving plates, and spoon the rest of the sauce on top. Sprinkle with the remaining fresh basil and pass around the grated cheese.
Make-ahead strategy: This eggplant pasta sauce can be made up to a day ahead. If making it more than two hours ahead, refrigerate it in an airtight container. Reheat it gently on the stove while you cook the pasta.
Which canned tomatoes are best? Whole canned tomatoes tend to be better quality than canned chopped or pureed tomatoes, and can be easily pureed in a blender or crushed by hand. Some of the most delicious canned tomatoes in the world are grown in the San Marzano region of Italy. San Marzano tomatoes have fewer seeds than Roma tomatoes and they have a more intense flavor and are sweeter and less acidic. Look for San Marzano D.O.P tomatoes.
Cheese: My favorite cheese for this dish is Pecorino Romano. It's a sharp salty cheese that's easy to find at most grocery stores and it's perfect for grating over pasta. It's also easy to find at most grocery stores. Many recipes for pasta alla norma call for ricotta salata cheese, which has a sweet nutty flavor and is also delicious, however it's harder to find and I've found it to be inconsistent in quality, depending on the brand. Here's an good resource to learn more about the unique characteristics of popular Italian cheeses.
This recipe is adapted from a recipe in Rao's Cookbook. (The same Rao's that makes the amazing marinara sauce!).
Nutrition Information: The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator and is not a substitute for the advice of a professional nutritionist.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Simmer
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Penne pasta with tomato eggplant sauce