Cherry tomato eggplant pasta in a bowl.

July 21, 2022

Cherry Tomato Eggplant Pasta

This easy cherry tomato eggplant pasta is packed with flavor and a kick of spicy heat thanks to minced red chilies and garlic.

This easy cherry tomato eggplant pasta is packed with flavor and a kick of spicy heat thanks to minced red chilies and garlic.

Cherry tomato eggplant pasta in a bowl.

Tomatoes are a vegetable that’s technically a fruit. They play well with other veggies that happen to fall into this confusing classification too. And that includes eggplant. Together they are wonderful sautéed in a pan to the point that they’re starting to fall apart. You end up with something chunky that’s not quite sauce that can dress up a basic bowl of pasta.

For this tomato eggplant recipe, I go big on the aromatics.  Minced garlic is a must. Then I throw in sliced red chilies. No surprise, the pasta turns out spicy. Not that I ever get bored with tomato pastas, but adding eggplant and chilies to the usual noodles with olive oil, garlic and Parmesan is a simple way to change things up.

Why Eggplant and Tomatoes are So Good Together (Especially in Pasta)

For this recipe, I take inspiration from the Italian classic pasta alla norma, a Sicilian dish with sautéed eggplant and tomato sauce finished with ricotta salata.

Instead of making a proper tomato sauce, I just sauté cherry tomatoes, which is one of my favorite ways to cook and eat them. This explains why I love burst tomato pasta on busy weeknights. And this eggplant pasta lets the tomatoes be the ultimate duo, sharing the spotlight.

Tips for Sautéing Eggplant

Salt the eggplant. Don’t skip this step. By salting the eggplant, it helps draw out some of the extra moisture. Eggplant can turn out soggy, so you want get rid of any water you can. Also by doing this, the eggplant won’t be as likely to absorb all the oil in the skillet and turn out greasy.

Don’t crowd the pan. You’ll see that I sauté half the eggplant and then cook the rest of it. That’s because I don’t want my pan so full that the eggplant steams instead of browns. So it’s important to cook it in batches.

Check the doneness. Perfectly cooked eggplant will be soft, creamy and smooth on the inside and browned on the outside. If you undercook it, you will miss out on this texture and taste, which is what makes eggplant so great.

Ingredients & Substitutions

Ingredients including penne, eggplant, fresno chili, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper
  • Penne pasta is my first choice for noodles because of their tubular shape and their ridges. Rigatoni is another great option.
  • Eggplant should have shiny, taut skin. Avoid any that have soft spots. For this pasta recipe, look for a medium-sized eggplant.
  • Cherry tomatoes are great because they are small. I leave half of them whole and slice the rest of them in half. Those cut tomatoes will fall apart and get smidge saucier. The whole ones will wrinkle and maybe burst. You can use grape tomatoes instead.
  • Fresno chilies have a medium level of heat. I take an entire chili and mince it for this pasta dish. If you are weary of too much spice, only include half the chili or just add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Garlic, along with the chilies, are what adds the most flavor to the pasta.
  • Olive oil: Use high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
  • Salt & pepper: You will need salt to prep the eggplant. Then you will add both salt and pepper to season the dish.
  • Parmesan: I like thinly shaved Parmesan to finish the pasta. To keep it vegan, you can use nutritional yeast.
  • Parsley: For fresh herbs and something green, I sprinkle on chopped parsley for garnish. Or add torn fresh basil leaves.

How To Make Tomato Eggplant Pasta

1. Salt the eggplant. Toss the diced eggplant with salt in a colander. Let it sit for 20 minutes. I like to do this in the sink or on a plate in order to catch the moisture that releases. Then gently pat it dry with a. towel.

2. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Follow the recommended cook time on the package. You want the pasta to come out al dente and have some bite.

Salt the eggplant in a colander. Then cook the pasta in a pot on the stove.

3. Heat the olive oil in a big skillet on the stove. You should start cooking the eggplant and tomatoes while the pasta is simmering.

4. Sauté the eggplant. It’s best to do this in 2 batches, so you avoid overcrowding. It should turn out lightly browned on the outside and creamy in the middle in 3-4 minutes. Then put all the cooked eggplant back into the skillet.

Heat the olive oil in the skillet. Then saute the eggplant.

5. Add the garlic and chilies, sautéing until fragrant, about 1 minute.

6. Stir in the tomatoes, salt and pepper. Continue sautéing for a few minutes. The tomatoes will get wrinkled and juicy. Some of them will fall apart.

Stir the garlic and chilies into the eggplant into the skillet. Then add the tomatoes.

7. Fold the cooked pasta into the eggplant and tomatoes. If you time this just right, you should be able to use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta straight from the pot it was simmering in to the skillet.

8. Finish the pasta with chopped fresh parsley and shaved Parmesan cheese.

In the skillet, stir the penne pasta into the eggplant and tomatoes. Finish the pasta with chopped parsley and parmesan.

Serving

Pair this pasta with a simple arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette. If you want a little something more, try an Italian chopped salad.

Leftovers

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days. You can eat the pasta cold and throw in greens to treat it like a pasta salad. Or you can warm it in a skillet on the stove with a little olive oil or in the microwave.

Do you need to peel the eggplant?

No. Peeling eggplant is not required. As long as you have a fresh eggplant, the skin should not be bitter and salting it helps with that too.

Do you have to salt eggplant?

When I sauté eggplant, I like to salt it to get the water out. That’s because then it’s less likely to suck up all the oil in the pan and become greasy.

Cherry tomato eggplant pasta on a plate.

More Eggplant Recipes

Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Halloumi
Roasted Eggplant Zucchini Tomato Stew
Crispy Chickpeas with Roasted Eggplant & Tomatoes
Roasted Ratatouille Quinoa

I hope you love this spicy eggplant tomato pasta as much as I do. Please leave a comment and rating below. Thanks!

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Penne pasta with tomatoes and eggplant in a bowl.

Cherry Tomato Eggplant Pasta

  • Author: Paige Adams
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Sauté
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This easy cherry tomato eggplant pasta is packed with flavor and a kick of spicy heat thanks to minced red chilies and garlic.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 medium eggplant, diced
  • 10 ounces penne
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Fresno chili, thinly sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, half whole tomatoes and the rest sliced in half
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Chopped parsley for serving
  • Shaved Parmesan for serving

Instructions

  1. Toss the eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in a colander. Let it sit for 20 minutes to get out the excess moisture. Pat the eggplant dry with a towel.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Sauté the eggplant in 2 batches until it starts to brown and turn soft, about 3-4 minutes. Return all the cooked eggplant to the skillet.
  4. Add the garlic and chilies to the eggplant, sautéing until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Stir in the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper. Continue cooking the tomatoes, so they get juicy and wrinkled, about 3 minutes.
  6. When the pasta is ready, use a slotted spoon to transfer it straight from the pot to the skillet. Stir it into the tomatoes and eggplant.
  7. Finish the pasta with chopped parsley and shaved Parmesan before serving.

Notes

Do not skip salting the eggplant. Drawing out some of the water will help when you sauté it because it won’t absorb all the oil in the skillet.

If you don’t like your food too spicy, you can mince half or a quarter of a Fresno chili. Or omit the chili and just add a pinch of red pepper flakes.

If you don’t have penne pasta, you can substitute with rigatoni.

In addition to parsley, you can also add fresh basil.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Eat them cold with greens as a pasta salad. Or warm them on the stove with a little oil or in the microwave.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 348
  • Sugar: 5.4 g
  • Sodium: 727.9 mg
  • Fat: 6.7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 59.3 g
  • Fiber: 4.6 g
  • Protein: 13 g
  • Cholesterol: 4.8 mg

Keywords: eggplant pasta

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