This baked pasta with eggplant is the perfect comfort food when the weather starts to change. This versatile recipe comes together quickly for a great weeknight meal. It’s vegetarian and a family friendly casserole.
When the weather starts to get cool and the seasons are changing I start to crave comfort food – and my baked penne with eggplant is an all time favorite. It’s a great recipe, a fool-proof good pasta dinner that can feed the whole family. I consider this penne pasta bake a classic and easy pasta casserole dish. To save on time you can make it in advance, stick it in the fridge and have a delicious hot meal heated and ready in under 30 minutes.
While this easy baked penne is perfect for a large family meal, it also becomes part of my regular routine for easy meal planning. I like to make a huge batch of this eggplant pasta and portion it out and freeze in airtight containers when I need a quick weeknight meal. With the addition of eggplant and a lot of pasta, this meal can stretch a long way which is great for prepping dinners or lunches in advance when you know you will be short on time.
Another thing I love, is that this baked penne pasta recipe is so versatile it can cater to any taste or ingredient you have on hand. Don’t like eggplant? This recipe is delicious without the eggplant, but also works great swapping it out for zucchini. This recipe is a meatless meal but if you are looking for more protein some great additions are italian sausage, ground turkey, or lean ground beef.
Serve with a green salad, garlic bread and a glass of red wine – buon appetito!
Baked Penne with Eggplant Ingredients
- Olive Oil & Sea Salt – make sure you use a good quality, extra virgin olive oil for best results
- Onion – I use the traditional yellow onion in this dish, but a red onion will work just as well
- Garlic – I always prefer fresh garlic, but if I don’t have any on hand I use garlic powder.
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes – I love a little spice and heat, but if you don’t feel free to leave this out!
- Penne Pasta – this is my pasta of choice, but ziti or rotini pasta works well in this recipe.
- Pasta Sauce – use your favorite jarred pasta sauce or spaghetti sauce.
- Pasta Water – the secret to any good pasta dish, reserve a little of the water the pasta is cooked in to prevent the pasta from drying out.
- Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese – using whole milk makes this baked pasta extra creamy.
- Basil – no pasta dish is finished without fresh basil! If it’s out of season you can substitute italian seasoning.
- Salt & Black Pepper
- Parmesan Cheese – parmesan lends a salty and savory note.
- Mozzarella Cheese – fresh mozzarella or shredded mozzarella melts beautifully, perfect for a melted, crusty topping.
How to Roast Eggplant
Roasting eggplant is similar to making any roasted vegetables, you want to start with an oven at high heat for the best results. I prefer to roast my vegetables at 425º F. For an easy cleanup, I like to line my baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mats.
You can either peel your eggplant or keep the skin on. This is a personal preference and I’ve done it both ways and it is still delicious. Chop your eggplant into 1/2″ pieces, place in a large bowl and toss with olive oil and salt. When your oven is preheated, bake the eggplant for 20 minutes, making sure to remember to flip halfway through for even roasting. Continue roasting until the center of the eggplant is soft and the edges are caramelized to perfection.
How To Make Baked Penne with Eggplant
Begin by roasting your eggplant (see instructions above.) Add onions, garlic and crushed peppers and cook for an additional 12 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Make your penne according to the directions on the back of the box, cooking until it is al dente. Before draining, reserve 1 ½ cups of pasta water and set aside. Drain and rinse pasta with cold water.
Lower oven to 375ºF, and in a large skillet or deep pan add tomato sauce, pasta water, ricotta cheese, basil, cooked eggplant and onions. Place on medium to low heat and combine. In a greased 9×13 inch baking dish add the drained pasta and the marinara sauce from the skillet. To save on dishes, I like to mix this all together right in the baking dish instead of a different bowl.
Now for the best part – top with shredded parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Bake at 375º F for 25 minutes until the top cheese layer turns a golden brown.
- 2 Medium Eggplants, Cubed
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
- 1 Medium Onion, Chopped
- 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder or 3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
- 1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
- 12 oz Penne
- 28 oz Pasta Sauce
- 1 1/2 Cup Pasta Water
- 16 oz Whole Milk Ricotta
- 1/2 Cup Chopped Basil
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- 1 Cup Shredded Parmesan
- 1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
- Preheat oven to 425º F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner. Add chopped eggplant, olive oil and salt.
- Bake for 20 minutes flipping the eggplant halfway through.
- Add onions, garlic and crushed peppers and cook for an additional 12 minutes.
- Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Make your penne according to the directions on the back of the box. Reserve 1 ½ cups of pasta water and set aside. Drain and rinse pasta with cold water.
- Lower oven to 375ºF
- In pan add tomato sauce, pasta water, ricotta cheese, basil, cooked eggplant and onions. Place on medium to low heat and combine.
- In a prepared 9x13 inch pan add pasta and sauce. I like to just mix this right in the pan.
- Top with shredded parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
- Bake at 375º F for 25 minutes.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 565Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 61mgSodium: 2175mgCarbohydrates: 62gFiber: 10gSugar: 16gProtein: 26g
Nutrition values are estimates only.
How to Make Baked Penne with Eggplant in Advance
Baked pasta recipes are perfect make-ahead casseroles that help save time and are perfect easy dinners during the week. To make this ahead of time, follow the recipe until the last step. Top the pasta with cheese, and then cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.
- Make sure to take the pasta dish out of the fridge about 20 minutes before cooking.
- Bake covered with aluminum foil for the first 15 minutes.
- Add an additional 10 minutes or so to the baking time, until the dish is completely heated through and the cheese topping is melted and golden brown.