Pasta al Forno con Melanzane – Baked Pasta with Eggplant

The other night I was reading Penelope Green’s See Naples and Die (thanks Leanne!), and in one part, Green’s neighbor makes “pasta al forno siciliana.”

Immediately I remembered the block of pancetta in the freezer, the fresh basil in the fridge, and the eggplants/aubergines that I had sitting upstairs.

I found this recipe in Italian, although I used garlic instead of onions (personal preference), used two different cheeses instead of solely mozzarella inside the mix, and left out black olives (because I didn’t have any). Even if you don’t speak Italian, if you’re going to make this, do click here. There are great step-by-step photos that I didn’t feel the need to repeat since Haruka84 already did such a great job.

So, how did it turn out?

P, who is reluctant to try anything new even if it has all familiar ingredients, had *two* enormous helpings. As did I. And then the next day? P requested leftovers reheated for lunch–an honor previously reserved only for my Calabrian stuffed lasagna, so you know it must be good.

It’s a bit time-consuming to put together (like most baked pasta dishes), but so very worth it, especially if you’re having company (this recipe serves six).

Pasta al forno con melanzane
Baked pasta with eggplant/aubergines

  • 3 medium eggplants
  • 200 grams of pancetta, cubed (optional)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • One large jar of tomato sauce or peeled tomatoes
  • 3 large basil leaves
  • 500 grams of short pasta like penne, rigatoni, or fusilli
  • One medium ball of mozzarella
  • Equal size ball of provola or your favorite mild, meltable cheese
  • Flour (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Grated parmesan cheese

1. Cut eggplant into bite-sized chunks, place in strainer, and salt well. Let sit for about an hour. If you prefer to peel your eggplants, you can; I’ve made this both ways, and it didn’t make a difference to me.

2. In the meantime, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan and then add garlic and pancetta if you’re using it. Let cook for a few minutes until pancetta has rendered its fat.

3. Add tomatoes and let simmer for about a half hour. Adjust for salt and stir in torn basil leaves.

4. Remove sauce from heat, cover, and set aside.

5. Start heating water for pasta, and preheat oven to 390Β°F/200Β°C.

6. Rinse eggplant in strainer, pat dry, and then dredge each piece in flour (optional — I’ve since done this without flour, and noticed no difference). Fry in a pan of hot oil (I use last year’s olive oil). Remove when just brown, and let drain on paper towels.

7. When water is boiling, add salt and pasta, and let cook for about half the suggested cooking time listed on the package. Strain pasta and return it to the pot.

8. Stir just enough sauce into the pasta to keep it from sticking to one another.

9. Cover the bottom of a baking dish with a thin layer of sauce and then add half the pasta. Sprinkle in half the cheese and the eggplant.

10. Top with more sauce and then add the rest of the pasta, then the cheese and then some more sauce. Grate some parmesan on top for good measure.

11. Cover with foil, put in oven, and bake for 20 minutes or until pasta is done.

12. Let cool for a few minutes before serving, but not too long–you want that mozzarella nice and fresh and stringy when served.

Buon appetito!

36 Beans of Wisdom to “Pasta al Forno con Melanzane – Baked Pasta with Eggplant”
  1. Gil

    Looks & sounds delicious!

    It was Gil πŸ™‚

  2. This is perfect dish to make on Sunday, then eat the leftovers on Monday and Tuesday.

    I was looking for more eggplant dishes. Perfect.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Something I have not heard since I’ve moved to Italy….

    This is a great weekend dish indeed; I actually find making something like this rather relaxing on a weekend morning, especially once you’re in the rhythm. Doesn’t hurt that it’s comfort food when it’s done either πŸ˜‰

  3. joanne at frutto della passione

    My Sicilian blood is boiling! Not out of anger, out of happiness I LOOOOOOVE melanzane and this dish is a little bit of heaven on earth! Oh and thanks for posting the Action Day link, I seem to have missed it previously but I have been a little scattered the last few days.

    joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming …

    Prego Joanne! Seriously this is one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had–and I’m not normally a huge fan of baked pasta. Of course, eggplant makes everything wonderful πŸ™‚

  4. 10.14.2008

    This is a seriously addictive dish and favourite with everyone in our family of six. I’ve never put pancetta in and don’t flour the melanzane, but will try it next time.

    Scintilla’s last blog post..Mission Impossible

    I *loved* the pancetta flavor here, but honestly I don’t see why you’d have to flour the eggplant. I’ll actually probably leave that out next time as I don’t think it made much of a difference anyway, but let me know what you think–I’ve never had it the other way, so it’s hard for me to tell πŸ˜‰

  5. 10.14.2008

    Glad the book inspired you! I must admit that when read it my mouth was watering for some of that…and I made some but did not use a reciepe so it turned out a little dry. We learn from our mistake though and since I love eggplant and I often use a bit of ricotta too. Like pasta alla norma al forno!

    Leanne in Italy’s last blog post..MTV concert on my door step

    Believe me, if I had had ricotta salata, I definitely would’ve thrown that in πŸ˜‰

  6. 10.14.2008

    This looks absolutely amazing. I love eggplant in every way, shape and form, but if you add mozzarella I’m completely in love.

    I should have thought of What’s Cooking Tuesday – I made a good dish last night but no photos. ;-(

    I, too, will be participating in Blog Action Day tomorrow.

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..World Hunger Day, pt. 2 – How you can help

    Well Jen, even if there are no photos, you can always do What’s Cooking Thursday πŸ˜‰

  7. 10.14.2008

    Delicious. I love pasta and this looks so good.
    My daughter doesn’t like egg plant, so when she is not comming home for lunch i am going to make this.

    Happy Cook’s last blog post..Chickpea Kozhambu and a Concert

    If she’d go for zucchini, that would work too, but honestly, this would be great even without the eggplant. You can throw in pretty much anything you like, actually πŸ™‚

  8. 10.14.2008

    I think the addition of pancetta could be what moves this dish up a notch or two! thanks for sharing!

    Barbara’s last blog post..COWS HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY!

    I’m with you, Barb. Eggplant is great, but the salty kick from the pancetta is fabulous πŸ™‚

  9. 10.14.2008

    All I can say is….YUMMM!

    Mary’s last blog post..Feeding

    Agreed Mary πŸ™‚

  10. 10.14.2008

    Can’t wait to try it. I may even make it Friday night. Thanks a huge bunch and I heart you too.

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Record setting pasta

    Aw I’m blushing Judith πŸ™‚

  11. 10.14.2008

    Wow, this looks GOOD! I have three eggplant in the fridge from last weekend’s Farmer’s Market, and I was wondering what to do with them this week. Now, I know! Thanks for the recipe,


    shiborigirl’s last blog post..I’m “It”! I’ve Been Tagged

    Now you know Kate! Use ’em up!

  12. 10.14.2008

    This looks absolutely delicious!! I LOOOOVE melanzane and I LOOOOOVE pasta. I’m definitely going to have to give this one a try!

    LuLu’s last blog post..Italian Fashion: Sweet Years

    Buon appetito LuLu!

  13. 10.14.2008

    This is a classic over here in Puglia. I can’t be bothered to fry the eggplant most times, so just do without, but when my husband feels like frying…

    saretta’s last blog post..A Room with a View

    P is the fryer here too!

  14. 10.14.2008

    My husband and I were looking at an Italian cookbook yesterday and I was saying how I’ve never tried eggplant, but would really like to. It seems today’s post is a sign : ) I guess I’ll have to go and buy one when I go grocery shopping this week.

    Erin’s last blog post..Birthday Bash, Erin Style

    Yes, I would take this as a sign as well…mangia mangia Erin πŸ™‚

  15. 10.14.2008

    Ooh, it is like a pasta alla norma al forno! I don’t usually like baked pasta dishes either, but this is such a great idea for all the eggplants we have down here in Texas. Guess melanzane like the heat, no?

    Boots in the Oven’s last blog post..A Trough of Friday Fajitas at Trudy’s

    It seems so, yes. I know they’re popular in a lot of Mediterranean cuisine, so I guess they love the heat…all that purple seems to reflect it well πŸ˜‰

  16. 10.14.2008

    Looks so delicioso, especially with all that cheese.

    Nate’s last blog post..Vegetarian Chap Chye (Stir-fried Mixed Vegetables)

    Thanks Nate. I’m a sucker for stringy cheese πŸ™‚

  17. 10.14.2008

    I am not a big eggplant fan. The pasta looks good tho.

    Thotlady’s last blog post..She can turn the world on with her smile.

    Feel free to experiment here, Thotlady…for me, the best part is the pancetta πŸ™‚

  18. 10.15.2008

    Your recipe sounds delish Michelle!!
    What’s not to love?
    Pancetta, eggplant, pasta, tomatoes, cheese YUM!!
    I AM a big fan of eggplant!


    * * * * *
    l l l l l

    Happy early Birthday Friend!!!!!!!!!!

    rochambeau’s last blog post..~Romantic Country Magazine~

    Thanks Constance!

  19. 10.15.2008

    Love me summa eggplant! Those photos are the purpliest!

    Now me hungry.

    Jozet at Halushki’s last blog post..HAPPY WORLD EGG DAY!

    Jozet, you’ve gone dot com! It’s been a while since I checked in; I’ll be over soon πŸ™‚

  20. Yum. I have to find time to make this dish. I’ve already told my P about it. πŸ™‚

    Cherrye at My Bella Vita’s last blog post..Blog Action Day: Reversing Poverty through Volunteer Travel

    It’s definitely a yummy dish if you like eggplant πŸ™‚

  21. 10.15.2008

    Thanks for participating in the WFD event and for the lovely pasta dish with melitzanes (that’s how we say it in Greece). I love the combination of all these beautiful flavours in a pasta dish.

    Ivy’s last blog post..Foodbuzz Publisher Community Launches

    Ooh I didn’t realize the name was so close in Greece! Thanks for hosting such a fabulous event, Ivy πŸ™‚

  22. 10.15.2008

    This could possibly inspire me to actually cook this weekend…..

    If I ever win the lottery the first thing I would do is hire a personal chef.

    Sauntering Soul’s last blog post..Hello? Can you hear me?

    I like cooking, but I think I’d probably hire someone too if money were no object…I could still invade and cook when I want, right? πŸ˜‰

  23. Jikke

    hello! i found this trough tastespotting, and tried it out yesterday with normal bacon and ricotta instead of provolone (due to a very limited supermarket) and it worked out perfect! this one is going to be made a lot more…thanks!

    Thanks for coming and letting me know! I’m so happy you enjoyed it, and kudos on the substitutions…I love dishes like this exactly because they are so versatile, and tasty of course πŸ˜‰

  24. 10.16.2008

    Today is World Food Day Michelle. Come on over and join the party! Thank you for all you have done in spreading the word about this global issue. Now…let’s DANCE!!!!

    Bellini Valli’s last blog post..WORLD FOOD DAY ROUND UP

    Woohoo! Looks amazing!!!!

  25. 10.16.2008

    Looks so yummy……I might prepare this for my inlaws when they visit in a few weeks…..Thanks!

    Great for a group, Diana! Buon appetito!

  26. 10.16.2008

    Great recipe! Not a big fan of melanzane usually but will give this a try!
    Thanks for your kind comments about my website!

    sally’s last blog post..Advice for those coming to live and work in Italy

    Hope you enjoy it Sally!

  27. Sophie

    Your pasta dish sounds delicious! I love the addition of pancetta :). Eggplant add such a tasty complexity to pasta dishes. I would love to feature your recipe on our Demy, the first and only digital recipe reader. Please email if you’re interested. You can find out more about the Demy here:

    Thanks so much and have a great weekend :)!

    Sophie’s last blog post..What’s Stirring-up on The Back Burner

    Thanks Sophie πŸ™‚

  28. 10.17.2008

    Fantastic dish, gorgeous photos and I’m so glad you shared with Presto Pasta Night. I do hope you’ll send along more of them soon.

    PS . love your blog

    Ruth’s last blog post..Presto Pasta Night Roundup #85

    Thanks so much Ruth! I’m happy that Judith has introduced me to PP πŸ™‚

  29. 10.22.2008

    So many nice textures on the pasta.. Yum!

    Jude’s last blog post..Suji Halwa – Indian Semolina and Raisin Pudding

    So glad you enjoyed it Jude, and thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

  30. 10.25.2008

    I love this recipe. It looks so hearty and yet so fresh all at the same time. I have this great eggplant and spinach recipe that tastes great on some long grain rice, if you are looking for a new eggplant recipe. Although with the O foods contest, I am sure you have more than enough new recipes to last for ages.,eh? I can email it to you if you like.

    NewWrldYankee’s last blog post..How to Not Lose Money in Getting the Local Currency

    Oooh yes, please pass it along! Yum!

  31. ovenbird

    Got here via foodgawker…this recipe sounds wonderful! Do you think it would freeze well, before or after baking? Can’t wait to try it…

    The only thing I’d wonder about is the eggplant, so I looked that up and others seem to think that fried eggplant freezes just fine. In that case, I would think it’s a lot like freezing lasagna, which works for me. Just defrost in the refrigerator and then reheat (or cook, I suppose) in the oven. Hope you enjoy it!

  32. 10.21.2010

    I would not flour the eggplant but I would briefly saute’ it. The dish is highly caloric by itself.

    Not a fan of the flouring either…not sure what it might accomplish to be honest. I’d just as soon grill it, actually.

  33. Daniel

    Looks amazing. Any thoughts on peeling the melanzane first before cutting it into pieces? I have … um, issues with eggplant skin, and think almost every recipe I’ve seen with eggplant where the skin is left on would be better if it were taken off.

    michelle Reply:

    Funny you should ask, Daniel — I peeled it tonight b/c the eggplants were getting a little old. I don’t think it’ll make too much of a difference as the skins on our eggplants are pretty thin anyway. If I were using the huge purple ones (which you rarely if ever see around here), I’d definitely peel. Enjoy!

  34. 11.29.2011

    Michelle, this looks so delectable!! Brava, brava! Eggplants (and artichokes) are my absolute favorite!. My nonna from Ferruzzano (near Reggio) made the most beautiful and delicious stuffed eggplant and I have never seen anyone else do them like her. I just posted a video for the company I am blogging for…you may really enjoy trying it! or on my new website

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