Penne with Eggplant and Basil Pesto

September 9, 2010 § 4 Comments

I saw some beautiful eggplants a few weeks ago on a shopping trip. They were begging to go home with me as if they knew I’ve been wanting to make the trenette eggplant dish that I saw on Giada’s show. Since we really enjoyed her eggplant timbale recipe, I thought this one would be good as well, and much simpler to make. This recipe is definitely for anyone who loves eggplant and classic pesto sauce.

The original recipe calls for trenette pasta but I couldn’t find it on that shopping trip and I was too lazy to drive around looking for it. So I settled on penne, which I always have on hand. 

We loved this dish. If there was anything negative to say about it was that I would have liked more eggplant. Doubling the amount of eggplant next time should do the trick.

Ingredients for pesto:

  • 2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (see directions below for toasting)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated Parmesan

Ingredients for pasta:

  • 1 pound trenette or other short-cut pasta like penne
  • 1/2 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated Parmesan, plus 1/2 cup
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (1 1/2 pounds) medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions for pine nuts:

Here are a couple of ways to toast pine nuts. One way is using the oven by arranging them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until lightly toasted, about 5 to 6 minutes. Cool completely before using.

The other way is to put them into a dry skillet and toast them over medium heat until lightly toasted. Shake the pan every so often to so the nuts won’t burn and to help with toasting all around. Takes about 3-5 minutes. I usually prefer the pan method so I don’t have to turn on the oven. Cool completely before using.

Directions for pesto:

In a blender or food processor, pulse the basil, pine nuts, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually add the oil until the mixture is smooth and thick. Add the cheese and pulse until just incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Directions for pasta:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water. Put the pasta into a large serving bowl and add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Toss until coated.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant turns golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cool slightly. Add the pesto and toss until the eggplant is coated.

Add the eggplant mixture to the serving bowl with the pasta and toss until all of the ingredients are coated. Thin out the sauce with a little pasta water, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve.

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§ 4 Responses to Penne with Eggplant and Basil Pesto

  • Kim says:

    I made this recipe when I first saw it on the show! It was fantastic and the leftovers were even good. My husband was just asking for it again so maybe I will have to swing by the store tomorrow for some Pesto ingredients.

    • CAB says:

      Hi Kim and thanks for stopping by. It was delicious as a leftover. I think I’ll have to make it again soon too! Congrats on the new blog. I’ll be checking back soon.

  • Kirk says:

    I love penne….. I think mostly because those little grooves in the pasta picks up just the right amount of sauce with every bite.

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