Sicilian Pasta is the perfect pasta dish for summer with fresh eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, and seasonings. Quick, easy pasta recipe with plenty of cheese, too. It’s very simple, but like many recipes from Sicily, it’s absolutely delicious.
During the summer we trade the heavy pasta dishes for recipes like this Sicilian pasta recipe – a pasta dish with fresh summer vegetables. In this case, eggplant is the star making this a light but still satisfying dinner. And an easy one!
Back home I used to hear people comment on how they didn’t like eggplant because it tastes so bitter. But after watching and learning from my mother-in-law I learned hot to eliminate that bitterness. And because of that, it’s become a favourite ingredient. Especially during the summer when it’s widely available.
So how do you make eggplant less bitter, you might be wondering? Well, you need to salt it and let it sit for a while before cooking it. The salt draws out a lot of moisture and the bitter flavor. Once cooked, it’s soft and meaty. Perfect for a pasta dish like this authentic Sicilian pasta.
All of the ingredients are combined with cheese and then baked just until warmed through and toasty on top. The combination of the soft eggplant, tomatoes, and garlic is a classic flavor combination we never get tired of – you won’t either once you give it a try.
Sicilian Pasta Ingredients
- Medium-sized eggplants
- Salt – you don’t need much, just enough to season the eggplant and draw out the moisture, about 1/4 teaspoon.
- Olive oil
- Minced garlic
- Canned Pelati tomatoes – or other canned peeled whole tomatoes.
- Hot pepper flakes – this is optional, but a few pinches add a nice subtle heat to the pasta.
- Firm shredded mozzarella
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Short pasta like penne, rotini, rigatoni, or other short shape you like.
Peel and cut the eggplant into cubes. Place them in a bowl and toss them with salt. Leave for at least 20 minutes. Drain off the excess liquid in the bowl and then add the cubes to a hot pan with olive oil and a little water.
While the eggplant is cooking, boil the water and cook the pasta until al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water when you drain the pasta. Cook the eggplant cubes until golden and tender. Remove them from the pan and set them aside in a bowl.
In the same pan, heat more oil and then add the tomatoes. Break them down as they cook. Add the seasonings, cooked eggplant, and a little more water to the pan.
Cook everything for about five minutes and then add the cooked pasta plus some starchy pasta water.
Add the mozzarella cheese and half of the Parmesan. Gently fold them into the other ingredients and then transfer the pasta to a medium-sized baking dish.
Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top and bake for 10 to 15 minutes and then let it rest for a few minutes at room temperature before serving.
Canned tomatoes are best for this recipe and easier, too. I like the whole peeled kind but you could use passata (tomato puree) if you don’t want to break down the whole tomatoes in the pan.
As I mentioned before, salting the eggplant is an important step and shouldn’t be skipped. It will make the eggplant less bitter and softer once it’s cooked.
If you want to add to this dish, feel free to try some chopped anchovies. Not everyone is a fan but added to pasta you don’t really taste fish but instead a salty savory flavor. You can also use anchovy paste in a tube if you can find it.
I love fresh Mozzarella but not for this eggplant pasta. It has too much water that will end up in the sauce. It’s better to use a low-moisture firm mozzarella instead.
Pregrated Parmesan cheese is convenient but I never advise using it, freshly grated has so much flavour and better texture. For a simple dish like this, I recommend grating it fresh before adding it to the pasta.
How to store it
Any leftover pasta should be covered tightly and stored in the fridge. It will last up to 3-5 days. It can be reheated in a low oven or microwave until warmed through.
Simple and so delicious this Sicilian pasta is always a favorite. If you love eggplant as we do, you must give it a try! Enjoy!
More Ways to Use Eggplant
Sicilian Pasta Recipe
- 2 medium eggplants
- ¼-½ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
- ½ cup water (divided)
- 1-2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 can Pelati tomatoes (14 ounce can) (400 grams)
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon basil
- 1-2 pinches hot pepper flakes (if desired)
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ cup firm mozzarella
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (divided)
- 4 cups cooked short pasta (penne, rigatoni etc)*
*Don't use a pasta too small or a long pasta.
- Peel and cut the eggplant into medium cubes, place them in a medium/large bowl toss with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, leave for about 20-30 minutes, drain any excess liquid but do not rinse before adding to the pan.
- Start to boil the water while the eggplant is cooking, add the pasta, cook until a little more than al dente.
- In a large pan add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the cubed eggplant and ¼ cup of pasta water cook until golden and tender. Move with a slotted spoon to a clean bowl. Set aside.
- Pre-heat oven to 400F (200C).
- In the same pan add another 1 tablespoon of olive oil, garlic, tomatoes (mashed into small pieces or you can you tomato passata) oregano, basil, hot pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, 1/4 cup water and the cooked eggplant. Cook for about 3-5 minutes. Add ⅓ cup of pasta water, the pasta, mozzarella and half the parmesan cheese.
- Gently fold together, then place in a medium baking dish 10×7 inches (27×18 cm), sprinkle the top with the remaining parmesan cheese. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes then serve. Enjoy!
The recipe says peel and cut but the picture shows it unpeeled… I’m confused
Hi Tracey, you can do either, removing the skin will make it less bitter. 🙂
Wow! Thank you for sharing this delicious recipe.
Hi Blitzo, you’re welcome, hope you enjoyed it. Take care!
Sounds like you had a good summer. I love this recipe. Anything eggplant, really! My aunt made a similar sauce only added zucchini, also. We called it “Summer Sauce” because it used a lot of the garden bounty and it was lighter than the usual meatball laden sauce. Definitely loved by all generations! Thanks again for all the yumminess!
Hi Lydia, thanks so much, adding zucchini to a sauce is so good, my MIL would also do that. Have a great weekend.
This dish sounds & looks incredibly delicious! I’m of Italian & Greek descent, married to an Italian guy, so you can imagine that we love & eat a lot of eggplant dishes. By Pelati tomatoes, I assume they’re San Marzano DOP Tomatoes, which are seriously the very best, due to the volcanic soil & growing conditions. Fortunately, there’s an Italian specialty store in our town, so I always buy several cans there. Whenever I make dishes with eggplant, I usually don’t peel all of the skin off-I peel a strip, leave the skin on the next strip, then peel another strip, etc….. I’m anxious to serve this lovely casserole when my Sicilian in-laws next come to dinner. As in your photo, I plan to use Penne’ Rigati pasta. Thank you for this wonderful recipe, Rosemary. 🌻
Hi Angelina, I never really knew eggplant until I married an Italian, but I love it, one of my favourites. And I peel my eggplant the exact same way! I hope they enjoy it. Take care and have a great weekend.