Upgrade your next pasta night with this super delicious eggplant and fennel pasta bake. It's full of tender melt in your mouth eggplant and fragrant fennel marry together for a real party in your mouth.
As a pasta lover I'm always looking for new ways to enjoy it. The combination marinara sauce, fennel and eggplant with a cheesy crispy Panko topping sounds like heaven to me. I cooked this dish in my 4 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Braiser with a lid. It's great because you can cook and bake all in the same dish. That means less dishes to wash at the end of the night.
Cook Time 60 Minutes
Serves 4-6 people
1 16 oz box of ziti pasta cooked and drained
1 medium size eggplant cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion diced
1 fennel bulb chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 tbs of fennel seeds roughly chopped
1 32. oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce
2 cups of vegan mozzarella - I used the So Delicious Vegan Mozzarella and it was perfect super melty and cheesy. I would also recommend the Violife Mozzarella for this recipe.
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs of Panko bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 350*
Cook and drain your pasta according to the package instructions. Make sure to stir in a little extra virgin olive oil to prevent it from sticking together and set it aside.
Now prepare the eggplant and fennel by placing a large skillet or braising pan over medium heat and add in 2-3 tbs of the extra virgin olive oil. Once the oil is hot and in the onion and fennel and cook while stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.
Now you can add the eggplant, garlic, fennel seeds and about 1/2 tsp of sea salt.
You will need to gradually add more extra virgin olive oil. Eggplant is super porous and it will literally drink up oil in just minutes so you will need to add more oil as it cooks so the pan does not become dry.
Cook the eggplant for about 15 minutes while stirring occasionally.
Once the eggplant is super soft and tender carefully pour in the marinara sauce.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer for an additional 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
Now combine the cooked pasta and sauce and add it to a large baking dish
Sprinkle the cheese and Panko bread crumbs on top and drizzle on a little extra virgin olive oil.
Bake on the middle oven rack for 15 minutes.
Then put the oven on broil and cook for about 5 minutes or until the the cheese becomes super bubbly and melty.
Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh parsley.
Before you get into the food pics let me tell you about my favorite marinara sauce. I only use Raos Homemade Marinara Sauce whenever I make anything with a red sauce. Once upon a time I used to buy other brands, then I started to make my own. After a while I got tired of cutting up all those damn tomatoes. Thankfully I discovered the Raos Homemade Marinara Sauce and my life changed. It tastes just like fresh homemade marinara. It's a little on the pricey side costing anywhere between $6.99 - $9.99 a jar. But TRUST ME it's worth it.
I love how tender the eggplant and fennel become. You could add this on rice or even add a few cups of vegetable broth and make soup.
It's so hard to resist scooping it out and eating it just like this.
Sprinkle on the cheese and bread crumbs followed by a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. It will create a nice cheesy topping with slightly crunchy texture.
After about 10-15 minutes in the oven and put it on broil to let the top get melty and slightly crunchy. It usually only needs about 2-5 minutes on the broil setting in the oven. Just be sure to stay close by so that it doesn't burn.
Look at this beauty!
What I used to make this dish.
Think you'll try this recipe? If you do, leave a comment below or snap a pic and tag me at @bevegan__ on Instagram or on Facebook and let me know what you think. Liking posts, leaving comments and sharing my content is super helpful and I always appreciate the support. Plus I really love seeing your recipe recreations.