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Healthy Pasta? Yes, please! Roasted Eggplant & Tomato Penne with Arugula & Pine Nuts

Roasted Eggplant Tomato Gluten Free Pasta

Sometimes you just want pasta.

And there’s no reason you have to give it up to be healthy.

The key is to using the best-tasting superfood-style pasta you can find and saying good-bye to the white processed stuff.

It’s also important to be mindful of your serving size and frequency of enjoying; a serving or two of a good-quality ancient-grain pasta each week is ok for most people, 10 is not. 😉

There are a ton of new health-conscious pastas on the market, give a few different brands a try until you find one you like. Most people do much better with gluten-free pasta (less bloating and inflammation). The key to cooking gluten-free pasta is to set a timer so you don’t over cook it. Always cook it just shy of al dente, 1-2 minutes less than the package says.

My rule of thumb for liking any new type of food is to try it at least 3 times; it takes your brain a few tries to get used to it. I actually now prefer gluten-free (and whole grain, of course) pasta, but the first few times I had it I remember thinking it was awful.

Also remember that just because something is gluten-free doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. Look for whole-seed and whole-grain pastas with at least 5 grams of protein per serving. I’m really loving truRoots Ancient Grain pasta right now (made from quinoa, amaranth, and brown rice) and you can even get it at Costco at a great price.

This dish is my new guilt-free go-to when I’m craving pasta because it reminds me of Eggplant Parmesan. The sauce is very similar, and the finely ground pine nuts have a texture similar to parmesan. And hot pasta on a cold day is just comforting.

I love this dish because it’s full of powerful plant nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber.

It’s also gluten-free and vegan. It makes a great light meal or side dish for dinner; serve it alongside organic chicken or organic grassed beef if that’s your style.

I use a food processor here (looove my food processor). A blender would work, too.

Roasted Eggplant & Tomato Penne with Arugula & Pine Nuts

Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups gluten-free penne (again, I like truRoots)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 vine ripe tomatoes, stemmed and quartered
  • 3 shallots, peeled and cut into thirds
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, whole and left in the skin
  • 1/3 cup raw pine nuts, finely chopped in the food processor
  • 8 large fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (more or less for heat to your taste)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, divided, plus more for the pasta water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups loosely packed arugula (or any other greens)

Recipe: Preheat the oven to 400. Prepare the eggplant, tomatoes, shallots, carrot and garlic for roasting. For the eggplant, cut the ends off, and peel about 1/2 the skin away. I leave half the skin for nutrients and texture, then cut into 1 inch cubes. The idea is for all of the veggies about the same size so they roast evenly, discard any small pieces as they will burn before the rest of the veggies are roasted. I leave the garlic in its skin to roast so it doesn’t burn, then peel before adding it to the food processor. Spread the veggies on a baking sheet, toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Roast the veggies 30-40 minutes until lightly golden brown.

How To Roast Vegetables

While the veggies are roasting, pulse the pine nuts in your food processor until finely chopped, about 6 long pulses and reserve. It should be similar to the texture of parmesan.

Pine Nut Parm

When the veggies have about 15 minutes left, bring a large pasta pot of purified water to a boil. Once boiling, add about a tablespoon or so of salt to the water to flavor the pasta (most if it says in the water) and cook the pasta to al dente. In most cases, read the package instructions and cook it 1-2 minutes less than the cooking time, I cook mine exactly 6 minutes. Before you drain the pasta, reserve 1 cup of the starchy cooking liquid to thin out your sauce if needed. (Tip: You can cook the pasta while you finish the sauce, or wait until after if you don’t want to manage more than one process at a time.)

To finish the sauce, carefully add the roasted veggies to your food processor, remembering to peel the skins off the garlic first. Again, be careful as it will be hot. Along with the roasted veggies, add 5 fresh basil leaves, the oregano, pinch of crusted red, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (to taste) to the food processor, then pulse a few times and process about 30 seconds until well blended and thick. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning if needed.

Eggplant Sauce

In a large bowl (or back into the pasta pot), add the drained pasta, ground pine nuts, then sauce. Add the sauce last so you can adjust the amount if needed. Once combined, use a small amount of the starchy pasta water if the sauce needs to be thinned out, I usually don’t have to in this dish but it will depend on the type of pasta you use and how much water was in your veggies. Add 1 tablespoon at a time if needed until the desired texture is achieved.

While hot, fold in 2 cups (that’s about two large handfuls) of fresh arugula. The heat of the dish will wilt the greens. Garnish with your last few basil leaves (finely chop or chiffonade) and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Best served hot, but it’s also delicious room temp or cold.

Cook’s notes:

  • If the tomatoes don’t look great at your store that day, you can substitute one 28-ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, just add them straight to the food processor with the roasted veggies (no need to roast them).
  • Fresh basil really makes a huge difference so use it if you can. If you can’t find any, 1 teaspoon dry into the sauce will work.
  • I love the taste of arugula in this dish, but again, if you can’t find any, any fresh dark-leafy greens will work spinach, kale or collards would be great, just give them about a one inch chop.

Bon Appétit!

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  1. Oh another one of your recipes that I can’t wait to try! I also believe in integrating healthy eating into your lifestyle, rather than worrying about diets of all sorts (they never work anyway as they are often detrimental in one way or another!). I love making the occasional pasta dish with an explosion of veggies – and this one looks just amazing, thank you for sharing! I will search high and low in the London grocery shops to find a nice gluten free whole grain pasta – very lucky that Whole Foods is opening up on my door step any day now! Thanks for a fabulous website 🙂 iida

  2. Miranda Moon-Duff says:

    Delicious! I made this ‘chunky’ style (didn’t use food processor) tonight on the stove with my Le Creuset French oven. I used spinach and beet greens instead of arugula this time (what I had on hand from our CSA). The crushed red pepper gave it a delicious spike. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. deann_malcolm says:

    That looks so good! And a good way to get my kids to eat veggies. I usually have “Frittata Friday” to clear out my veggies for the week, but I think this is a great meatless alternative, too. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Cadie says:

    Sounds like a delicious recipe! What food processor do you use? I need to buy one. 🙂

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