Unbreaded Eggplant Over Pasta

I've been craving eggplant parmesan. I love the crunchy breading covering the soft eggplant and then smothering the eggplant in a simple tomato sauce. It's amazing how well eggplant and tomatoes go together. I don't, however, love how long eggplant parmesan takes me to make (over an hour), and I don't love turning on the oven for an extended period of time on a hot, muggy day in August. So, this "unbreaded" recipe is my 30 minute version of eggplant parmesan that doesn't require an oven.

Eggplant parmesan is slices of eggplant breaded and then baked. This unbreaded version uses chunks of eggplant that are seared and then sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs. The taste is surprisingly similar.

I do like to cut up my eggplant, salt it, and let its bitter juices seep out. I find it also helps to prevent the eggplant from absorbing too much oil. In this recipe, I cooked the eggplant over fairly high heat because I wanted to sear the outside without causing the insides to become a mushy gray mess. Grilling the eggplant is also an option.

The tomato sauce I used is a very simple tomato sauce that takes just a few minutes to whip together and doesn't have any unnecessary additives that are so often included in purchased tomato sauce. If you've never tried to make a tomato sauce from scratch, try this one. It's so simple and delicious you may not go back to the pre-made stuff!

Unbreaded Eggplant Over Pasta
3 servings

2 small eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (about 4 cups)
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh Thai basil, diced
1/2 lime
1 tablespoon blue cheese (optional)
4 medium tomatoes (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
1 tablespoon prepared pesto
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces thin spaghetti
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter (or oil)

  1. Place the eggplant chunks in a strainer and lightly salt. Set aside.
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (about 10 minutes). Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Mince 1/4 of the onion and add to the saucepan. Cook until soft. Dice the tomatoes and add to the pan. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until the rest of the dish comes together. Cooking time can really vary. The longer you cook it, the thicker it will become. Stir occasionally. 
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Slice the rest of the onion into thin rings. Mince the garlic. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook until the onion and garlic are a light brown. 
  5. With a towel, lightly pat the eggplant dry, removing all the extra salt and bitter juices. Add the eggplant to the pan and turn heat up slightly. Keep the heat as high as you can without burning the onion and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the basil, salt and pepper to taste, and the juice of 1/2 a lime. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is soft but not mushy. The eggplant should still hold its shape. Scoop this mixture into a bowl and stir in the blue cheese, if using.
  6. Stir in the pesto into the tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper. 
  7. Melt the butter in the same saucepan you used to cook the pasta. Add the bread crumbs and stir until lightly toasted.
  8. To assemble, place a pile of pasta on a plate. Top with some of the eggplant mixture and the tomato sauce. Sprinkle generously with the bread crumbs. Add more than you normally would. The crunch is so good! 

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