Baked Pasta with Tomatoes & Eggplant

This baked pasta with tomatoes and eggplant is a dinnertime superstar. Pasta is smothered with mozzarella and baked in a tomato sauce loaded with eggplant and fennel. The extra sauce doubles as a soup for dinner the next night. Cook once. Eat twice.

Three round casserole dishes filled with baked pasta with tomatoes and eggplant.

This tomato pasta bake is comforting and cheesy (actually, those two words are sorta synonymous, yes?!) and ingeniously designed to do double-duty at dinnertime. The tomato sauce base for the pasta is actually a hearty vegetable soup, filled with tomatoes, eggplant, and fennel, and it makes an enormous batch so you can enjoy the pasta one night, and have plenty of soup left over for the next. Or stash it in your freezer for the future as it freezes and reheats magnificently.–Angie Zoobkoff

Baked Pasta with Tomatoes & Eggplant

Three round casserole dishes filled with baked pasta with tomatoes and eggplant.
These are what you'd call "two-fers." No one loves reheating something they served for dinner a second day, but with two-fers, the leftovers become something totally different. This is one of those recipes: you make the tomato and eggplant soup for dinner one night and use the leftover soup as a pasta sauce the next.
Ina Garten

Prep 45 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 1 hr 30 mins
Entrees
Italian
3 servings
870 kcal
5 from 1 vote
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Ingredients 

For the tomato soup

  • Olive oil
  • 4 1/2 cups unpeeled eggplant cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cups chopped fennel bulb
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic from about 6 cloves
  • 3 cups canned chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
  • One (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes preferably San Marzano
  • 2 teaspoons whole dried fennel seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • One (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes preferably San Marzano
  • Freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese for serving

For the baked pasta

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces penne rigate and/or fusilli
  • 3 cups tomato soup (see preceding recipe)
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) cubes
  • 5 tablespoons freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese divided
  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter cut into small pieces

Directions
 

Make the tomato soup

  • In a medium pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat, warm 1/2 cup oil. Add the eggplant and sauté until tender, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. If the eggplant sticks to the pot, add a little more oil.
  • Add 2 tablespoons more oil to the pot along with the onions and fennel, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender but not browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Stir in the chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, fennel seeds, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons black pepper.
  • Pour the can of whole tomatoes, including the liquid, into a food processor and pulse until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes and the liquid to the pot. Bring to a boil,reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Make the baked pasta

  • Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C). Place three 6-inch (15-cm) gratin dishes or a 1-quart baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon salt, and stir in the pasta. If you’re using a single type of pasta, cook it for 1 to 2 minutes less than the directions on the package. If you’re using both kinds of pasta, start with the one that cooks longest and add the second later so they finish at the same time. You want the pasta to be quite al dente (as in, not fully cooked) as it will continue to soften while the casserole bakes. Drain the pasta.
  • Pour the soup into a large bowl, add the cooked pasta, the mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper and toss well.
  • Divide the mixture evenly among the gratin dishes or pile it all into the baking dish, dot the tops with butter, and bake until hot and bubbly and the pasta begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle each dish with the remaining Parmesan, bake for another 4 minutes, and serve hot.
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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 870kcal (44%)Carbohydrates: 138g (46%)Protein: 38g (76%)Fat: 24g (37%)Saturated Fat: 12g (75%)Trans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 57mg (19%)Sodium: 2521mg (110%)Potassium: 3256mg (93%)Fiber: 20g (83%)Sugar: 42g (47%)Vitamin A: 2234IU (45%)Vitamin C: 89mg (108%)Calcium: 617mg (62%)Iron: 10mg (56%)

Recipe Testers' Reviews

I like the varied ingredients, which give all of the flavors and textures a place to combine and meld into more than each ingredient would be on its own. I liked the idea of using the 2 different types of pasta, which was actually fun. I will try that again.

The tomato soup itself makes a ridiculous amount of soup. I just hope the leftover soup freezes well. If I was going to make this recipe again, I would definitely cut the recipe in half.

I'm a fan of "two-fers," too (what Ina refers to when leftovers become a completely different dish. This recipe is a winner on both the first and second (or third) day. This is a really tasty dish as a soup but as a baked pasta dish, it knocks it out of the park. So good!


Originally published January 19, 2019

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Comments

  1. What are your thoughts on substituting a couple of links of sweet italian sausage for the fennel? Just trying to figure out a substitue that I have on hand that might give a similar flavor to the soup.

    1. KLJ, I’m a bit confused, as this isn’t soup but a bake. Still, you can substitute the same amount of celery or bok choy plus 1 teaspoon or so of fennel seed. Does that help?

  2. 5 stars
    This recipe is an incredible two-for-one. First off, the baked pasta is EVERYTHING—cheesy, saucy, flavorful, hearty, and soulful. I used some fresh made mozzarella and handmade pasta from a local Italian market. Loved the texture of the eggplant and the flavor of the fennel. The soup is also a knockout, especially with some crusty bread. This is the food that makes me smile.

    1. Thrilled this recipe does the trick for you, Johnisha! Especially the soulful part. That’s what we strive for with each and every recipe. Thank you for taking the time to let us know…

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