Pasta with Grilled Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Sauce

This recipe has a lot of steps, so it works better as a weekend dish. It also helps to have caramelized onions already waiting in the refrigerator! That said, it’s totally worth the time 🙂

Pasta with Grilled Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Sauce

Serves 2 generously, or 3 with side dishes

1 medium eggplant (about a pound)
Sea salt
1/4 cup vegetable stock
2-4 yellow onions, sliced thinly
10 ounces whole wheat penne or rigatoni
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional, adds a somewhat parmesan-like flavor)
2 cups almond or oat milk, unsweetened plain
12 large sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated and chopped
2 sprigs thyme, stripped off the branch and chopped (or use 1-1/2 tsp. dried)
4-6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/8—1/4 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch (potato starch works, as well)
1 cup mushrooms (portobello, shiitake, or porcini), sliced and sautéed
1 cup panko or whole wheat bread crumbs, toasted
Handful of fresh basil, slivered

Cover the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water and set aside.

Slice the mushrooms and sauté in 2 tablespoons of vegetable stock. Set aside.

Heat a large non-stick skillet (or an enameled cast iron pot) over medium heat and add the onions. Cook until the onions begin to stick and brown, then add 2 tablespoons vegetable stock. Cook over a low flame, stirring often, adding a tiny bit more stock, if needed. Cook until the onions are soft and golden, and have reduced, yielding about 1/2 a cup or more. Set aside.

Finely chop the rehydrated sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic. In a food processor, add the tomatoes, garlic, almond milk, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, white pepper, and chipotle powder. Add a pinch of salt, if desired. Pulse to combine. Leave the cornstarch out.

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees. Oil a large, flat baking sheet with olive oil, very light pinch of salt, pepper, and either fresh garlic, or garlic powder. Slice eggplant into 1/4-inch slices. Flip the eggplant slices several times so that they are mostly coated with the olive oil/salt/pepper/garlic mixture on both sides. Pop into a oven and slowly roast the eggplant slices for about 30-40 minutes until they are golden brown and starting to soften—flipping them with a spatula once, or twice, as necessary—Remove from oven and place flat on cooling rack for a bit, then add the eggplant to the food processor’s ingredients, along with the cornstarch or potato starch. Pulse until well-mixed.

Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Bring a large pot of water (salted or unsalted) to a boil for the pasta. Once water is boiling, add pasta and boil until it is al dente, about eight minutes. Drain.

Pour the eggplant sauce into the same saucepan you used to brown the onions, add salt to taste (optional), and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Lower heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the pasta is ready. At the same time, on a second burner, toss the bread crumbs (if you’re not using panko) in a hot non-stick frying pan until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Add drained pasta to the eggplant sauce, along with half of the caramelized onions (I used about 4 heaping tablespoons), and mushrooms, and stir thoroughly to combine. Transfer to an oven-safe dish, if needed. Smooth the pasta, and top with remaining caramelized onions (another 4 heaping tablespoons) and the toasted panko or bread crumbs. Bake, covered, for about 20-30 minutes, then place the baking dish under the broiler to toast the top until golden. BE CAREFUL—don’t let it  burn. Don’t walk away.

Remove, sprinkle with the basil, and serve immediately. I like a side dish of greens—either a salad or steamed greens with a squeeze of lemon—the acidity is a nice contrast to the earthiness of the pasta.

Leftovers don’t reheat well because the noodles absorb the sauce. You’ll have to eat it all.
Poor you 🙁

Inspired by a recipe by The Minimalist Baker