Vermont weather is full of surprises. Winter is still in full force and it doesn’t seem like spring has any intentions of coming to our neck of the woods. It is snowing outside as I am typing this and there is already 10 inches of snow on the ground. Looking at the weather, it is hard to believe that today is the first day of April. I do not know you, but for me when the weather is like this I find myself craving for comfort food.
In my opinion, today’s recipe, baked ziti with roasted eggplant and basil, is the definition comfort food: Pasta layered with homemade tomato basil sauce, ricotta cheese, roasted eggplant and fresh mozzarella baked in the oven for an easy and satisfying weeknight dinner.
About This Baked Ziti with Roasted Eggplant and Basil Recipe:
Now, I did tell you that this is a weeknight dinner recipe, but it requires a little bit of a preparation in advance. What makes this dinner so delicious is the homemade tomato-basil sauce recipe that I published a few days ago. This baked ziti is one of the many recipes that you can make if you have that sauce on hand. So if you already have it, this dish is super easy and quick put together. Here is a quick tutorial showing you how I layered it.
Flavoring Agents – Eggplant and Basil:
In addition to the tomato sauce, I used roasted eggplant and basil to turn this into a hearty and flavorful meal. To save on time, roast the eggplant while the pasta is cooking. If you time it right, by the time pasta is cooked your eggplant should be out of the oven and ready for layering.
To me, the fresh basil is what takes this dish to the next level. In addition to having it in the tomato sauce, I also mixed it in with the ricotta cheese. As the pasta baked in the oven, the ricotta melted leaving the remnants of basil leaves tucked in the corners and insides of the pasta.
Regular Pasta versus Gluten-Free Pasta:
The recipe below is made with regular ziti, but in the past I made this dish with gluten-free pasta as well and it worked perfectly. If you are observing a gluten-free diet you can switch the ziti with any of your favorite gluten-free pasta. If you are living in the US, I recommend Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice Penne Pasta. I know it is not ziti, but it is close enough.
Other Eggplant Recipes You Might Like
Baked Ziti With Roasted Eggplant and Basil
For the Roasted Eggplant
- 2 medium-sized eggplants cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes optional
For the Baked Ziti
- 16 ounces ziti pasta or any other tubular pasta *
- vegetable spray
- 2 cups homemade tomato-basil sauce divided
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta preferably homemade
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves chopped – plus more as garnish
- 1 cup fresh or dry mozzarella cheese, freshly grated
- For the Roasted Eggplant: Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Place the eggplant cubes on the baking sheet. Drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using). Give it a toss and make sure that the eggplant is distributed evenly on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Be sure to give it a gently toss halfway through the roasting process for even roasting. Set aside to cool.
- Do not turn the oven off.
- For the Pasta: 10-15 minutes before the eggplant is ready, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and ziti. Cook until it is al dente, 8-9 minutes. Drain the pasta, place it in a large bowl. Stir in the tomato-basil sauce.
- Mix together the ricotta and chopped basil in a bowl and set aside.
- To assemble: Spray a large (mine was 9X13) oven-proof casserole dish with vegetable spray, making sure that the sides of the dish is coated with the oil.Place half of the ziti at the bottom of the casserole dish. Spread half of the eggplant cubes evenly on top. Dollop with half of the ricotta-basil mixture and sprinkle with half of the mozzarella.
- Repeat the same steps for the second layer: Spread the rest of the ziti and roasted eggplant evenly as a second layer. Dollop with the rest of the ricotta-basil mixture and sprinkle the top with the rest of the mozzarella cheese.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese on top is browned.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle it with fresh basil leaves. Serve immediately.