I bet there's a dish you absolutely love, but you rarely go through the actual steps of making at home on a weeknight. I have a few: birria tacos, lamb biryani and eggplant parmesan. To me, these dishes are weekend projects.
Nonetheless, eggplant parm is a meal I consistently crave because it hits all of the right notes. It's deliciously cheesy, crisp and punched up with the right amount of tomato-umami goodness.
When I recently had one of these now-routine cravings, I wondered if it was possible to create a shortcut to the same flavors. I don't know about you, but my energy has been completely vampirized by these 4 p.m. winter sunsets.
That was the impetus for this pasta bake, which features a flavor-rich eggplant and sun-dried tomato sauce as the base and crispy toasted breadcrumbs and hand-torn mozzarella as the topping. The whole thing comes together in under an hour an hour, which is not too bad for a weeknight.
Bonus: If you use an oven-safe pot or a Dutch oven, this is a one-pot meal (because who really has the time to scrub multiple pans on a Monday?).
Recipe: One-Pot Eggplant Pasta Bake
- 16 ounces rigatoni, cooked according to package directions (reserve 1 cup pasta water)
- 1 large eggplant, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 shallots, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 to 4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, chopped or torn
- 2 tablespoons basil, torn
- 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil
- Grated Parmesan cheese (for serving)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover the bottom of a large pot with olive oil, then add the garlic and shallots. Cook over medium heat until they get jammy and a little browned, about 4 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, eggplant and sun-dried tomatoes.
- Add the wine to the pot, followed by just enough water to cover the contents of the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste, then bring the mixture to a low simmer and cover the pot. Once the liquid has reduced by half — this should take about 15 minutes — remove the pot from the heat.
- Using an immersion blender — or carefully scooping batches into a countertop blender — pulse the sauce until the mixture takes on a thick, paste-like consistency. If you like a more cohesive pasta sauce, blend more; if you like chunkier, blend less.
- Add the pasta to the pot, followed by the reserved pasta water. Stir until the sauce coats all of the pasta. At this point, transfer the pasta to a rimmed 8"-x-5" baking dish. (If you're using an oven-safe pot, keep the pasta there.)
- Add a glug of olive oil to a small pan and bring it up to medium heat. Add the Panko bread crumbs, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Stir slowly until the bread crumbs are toasted and slightly brown.
- Use the bread crumbs to top the pasta bake, followed by the chopped or torn mozzarella and the basil.
- Place the pasta in the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes.
- Remove from the pasta from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving with grated Parmesan cheese.
More simple weeknight recipes:
- The viral feta pasta dish everyone's raving about is even better without pasta
- A chocolate sandwich tastes exactly as comforting as it sounds — and it's sublime
- This riff on a classic Southern pie is comfort in a bite — and the leftovers taste great for breakfast
- French-inspired lentils are the easiest cure for your winter blues — and they're impossible to mess up