When it comes to weeknight dinners, it needs to be quick. I’ll be returning to my full time time job soon enough so I won’t have loads of time to be preparing dinner but still want to feed the family whole foods and delicious meals. With that being said, I’m sure there will be some busy nights where making dinner won’t be a possibility which is why I love making Pasta Al Forno on the weekends. My eggplant and zucchini baked pasta is one of our favourites because it’s not only delicious but it’s quick to reheat for leftovers and can be baked from frozen for an easy weeknight meal! I don’t know about you, but I love leftovers. My Mom would often make a giant dish of Pasta al Forno for a weekend dinner and save the leftovers for a night that she worked late. We loved Pasta al Forno when we were young and were never disappointed when it was served to us twice in one week.
In this particular recipe, I’m using one of my all-time favourite vegetables, eggplant! A lot of people aren’t sure what to do with an eggplant but my family and I often joke that we could write a cookbook on 101 ways to cook with it! It’s such a versatile vegetable (technically a fruit) that can be prepared in a number of ways and we love it in this dish! Eggplants can be found in your local grocery stores year round but are best in summer/early fall. The eggplants I used in this recipe were from my parents garden from last summer . They were cubed, blanched and stored in the freezer to be enjoyed all year round!
Preparing Pasta al Forno can take some time which is why I prefer to make a batch or two on a Sunday night. With that being said, I made everything and had my kitchen cleaned in 1.5 hours and I’d say that’s pretty good for a meal that does involve a few different steps. While it is a bit time consuming, it’s not difficult to make at all! There are also a few steps that you can do ahead of time like hard boiling your eggs, grating the cheese and making your sauce which will make the entire process less time consuming. I recommend doubling this recipe and keeping half in the freezer. It keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for 6 months. It’s also a great recipe for any off you who are expecting. Trust me when I say that cooking with a newborn is a challenge, especially when you’re home by yourself. So having meals like this one in the freezer will be incredibly helpful! Also – notice how I baked this in a disposable baking pan? These are a lifesaver and will save you from having to soak and wash more dishes. These are ideal if you’re planning on freezing this as well!
There are a few variations to pasta al forno, but mine is completely vegetarian and perfect for those meatless meals. It’s substantial, satisfying and you won’t miss the meat in this dish! If you’re not a fan of hard boiled eggs, you can certainly leave them out but they do add a lovely creamy texture to the dish. Although some may disagree, I consider this pasta recipe to be relatively healthy. We’re using whole ingredients – there’s nothing artificial about it which is really important to me in my cooking. I like to know what I’m eating and by taking steps like making your own sauce, you’re omitting any artificial flavours and unnecessary sugars. With that being said, you can certainly substitute with a whole wheat pasta and use less cheese if desired. I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as we do. Make sure to pin this recipe on Pinterest, follow me on Instagram and Facebook and send me a photo of your Pasta al Forno! I love to see your creations!
Vegetarian Pasta Al Forno with Eggplant and Zucchini
A delicious vegetarian baked pasta dish that will leave you satisfied! It's a staple make-ahead meal for those busy weeknights and makes for great left overs!
- 680 ml Passata 1 Jar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp Fresh Basil
- 454 g Rigatoni Pasta
- 2 Zucchini cubed
- 1 Eggplant cubed
- 3 Hard Boiled Eggs
- 2 cups Grated Mozzarella
- 1/4 cup Parmesan
Hard Boil Eggs
Your eggs can be done ahead of time, as part of your prep work. In a small pot, add eggs and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes and turn off heat, leaving the pot covered for 5 more minutes. Remove eggs and place in a cold water bath until cool enough to handle. Peel eggs and slice. It's okay if the eggs aren't perfectly sliced as they will crumble into the pasta once mixed together.
Eggplant and Zucchini
Place a large skillet with high sides over high heat. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Once the pan is hot, add zucchini, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Cook evenly until golden brown. Remove zucchini add eggplant to the pan. Eggplant is like a sponge and will suck up the oil so add an additional tablespoon of olive oil for frying if necessary. Once browned, remove and season the zucchini and eggplant with salt.
For the Sauce and Pasta
Use the same skillet from frying the eggplant and zucchini and add 1 tbsp of olive oil and onions over medium low heat. Saute until they become translucent and add garlic, garlic powder, oregano and red chili flakes. Season with salt and pepper. At this time, bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
Once fragrant, add the passata, season with salt and pepper and fresh basil and, bring everything to a boil. Reduce to a simmer with the lid partially on, allowing steam to escape. Once the large pot of water has come to a boil, season it generously with salt and add the rigatoni. Cook 2 minutes less than package instructions. Once pasta is almost cooked, drain the pasta.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
To the sauce, add in the pasta, eggplant and zucchini and toss to coat. Add 1/4 of grated parmesan, 1/2 cup of mozarella and hard boiled eggs to the pasta mixture and lightly combine.
Place the pasta mixture in a casserole dish. Top with remaining mozzarella and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until cheese in melted and lightly golden brown. If you're not eating this right away, reserve the mozzarella until it's time to bake. If you're cooking the Past al Forno from frozen, place it in a 400 F oven for 1.5 hours.