Caramelized Eggplant and Pesto Pasta: Vegan-Friendly Comfort Food

So… I know what you’re thinking. I know.

This is quite possibly the ugliest dish I’ve ever made. Everything is this same dark greenish-purpleish hue that does not scream eat me. But wait! Don’t run away just yet.

An oblique view of a penne and tomato dish covered in pesto on a white plate.

This pasta is really good. It’s my favorite pasta I’ve made recently, and that’s saying a lot. AJ liked it so much that he insisted I post it, even though it was so ugly (though he kindly didn’t use those words). So here it is – an amazingly tasty but not-so-easy-on-the-eyes Caramelized Eggplant and Pesto Pasta.

Green fresh basil leaves on a white linen napkin.

So, if you’re planning on serving food to a crowd and impressing them not only with your super duper awesome cooking skills, but also with your innate ability to make the most beautiful food they’ve ever seen, I don’t know that I’d recommend this. But if you’re just sittin’ at home with your boo and wondering if you should make it, do. Definitely do.

Oblique view of a Caramelized Eggplant Pesto Pasta dish on a white ceramic plate.

And I also know that you and eggplant maybe aren’t the best of friends. Or your boo doesn’t like them. But sometimes, you gotta step outside your comfort zone.

A lemon sitting on a rustic white wooden table.

If you handle it correctly, it’ll yield a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a complex sweetness that leaves you digging through the noodles to find the last remaining piece.

Top down view of a vegan noodle and vegetable dish on a white ceramic plate on an off-white linen napkin.

I promise, if you’ve never liked eggplant in the past, this is the recipe to try.

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Oblique view of a pasta recipe make with caramelized eggplant and pesto sitting on a white, ceramic plate.

Caramelized Eggplant and Pesto Pasta

  • Author: Raquel Smith
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


A quick weeknight summer dinner featuring everybody’s favorite vegetable to pick on – eggplant. Prepared correctly, it yields a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a complex sweetness that leaves you craving more! A simple pesto recipe to coat the noodles, and sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes bring it all together.



For the Eggplant:

  • 2 medium (6″ long and skinny) eggplant, preferably the Japanese variety
  • salt
  • 35 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the Pesto and Pasta:


For the Eggplant:

  1. Cut the eggplant into a 1/2-inch dice. Place in a colander set atop a couple paper towels (or something to catch the drips) and sprinkle very generously with salt. Toss well and let sit for 30 minutes or so. You should see beads of water form on the surface of the eggplant. Rinse briefly but thoroughly with water. Shake off as much of water as you can, or pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Warm 3 Tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet and add the eggplant. Cook over medium to medium-high heat, tossing every few minutes, until nicely browned on all sides.

For the Pesto and Pasta:

  1. While the eggplant sweats (in the salt), boil a large pot of water and cook the noodles according to package instructions. Slice your tomatoes and set aside.
  2. Place all remaining pesto ingredients in a food processor and process until mostly smooth. If it won’t run through the blades, you can add more oil. Add more lemon juice, cayenne, salt, or pepper according to your taste preferences.
  3. Drain the pasta and toss to coat evenly with the pesto. Add the eggplant and tomatoes, and gently toss to combine. Serve immediately.
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: Vegan, Pasta, Pesto, Italian, Comfort Food, eggplant, tomato

What about you? How do you like your eggplant? Leave us a message in the comments below and please rate the recipe at the same time!

To make sure you’re eating your greens (and your purples!), use our kale almond pesto instead.

But if you love the taste of basil and pine-nuts (or pistachios) be sure to check out these other pesto-based recipes:

Don’t forget to Pin It!

A collage of photos showing various view of a vegan caramelized Japanese eggplant and Thai basil pesto pasta recipe.

Photos by Raquel Smith, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on June 23rd, 2014. Last updated: January 1, 2020 at 2:10 am.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Raquel Smith

Raquel is a whole foods enthusiast, an avid mountain biker, and a dog lover. She works by day at Food Blogger Pro and formerly maintained her food blog "My California Roots" (now merged into Foodal).

10 thoughts on “Caramelized Eggplant and Pesto Pasta: Vegan-Friendly Comfort Food”

  1. I’m funny about eggplant. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. It depends on my mood. BUT I’ve never heard of carmelizing it and I think it sounds fantastic. And I’ve seen waaaay uglier food than this. It looks good!

    • Thanks, Sarah! Yeah the photos turned out wayyyy better than I thought, and it actually does look moderately appetizing. It’s amazing what a little overexposure can do!

  2. Oh, but ugly dishes are, so often, the most delicious. And this definitely sounds like its up in that category. Pesto and CARAMELIZED eggplant – combined – sounds incredible!

  3. Raquel, I think that this dish sounds really good. I love eggplant and I often put it in my pasta as well. And you cannot go wrong with pesto….
    Btw, I am a fellow Food Blogger Pro member. I have noticed that you started a Pinterest group and I was trying to follow your directions to join, but I couldn’t find an option to comment on your pin. Please let me know how to do this and I will gladly do.
    I’m looking forward to hear from you 🙂

    • Hey Edyta, make sure you are logged into your Pinterest account, then go to my profile and follow all my boards. Then go to the “recipes hot off the press” board and click on a pin that I personally posted, such as the one for this pasta recipe. If you scroll down below the ingredients there is an area where you can leave a comment. Just ask to join.


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