It’s one of my favorite days of the month – Improv Challenge Day. This month we were improving with Pasta & Cheese. I decided to reinvent a classic Italian-American dish into a much simpler comfort food recipe in my Eggplant Parmigiana Pasta Casserole. When I was getting close to my due date with Baby Smiles, every time I
whined complained casually mentioned that I was ready to have this baby, someone undoubtedly mentioned Eggplant Parmigiana. Have you heard about this? Apparently anytime a woman near her due date visits Scalini’s in Georgia and eats the eggplant parm, they go into labor within a couple of days. They also have the recipe online for those that don’t live nearby, and I received many suggestions to make it. Yeah, I could barely stand on my feet for ten minutes, was in major pain, have a tummy that hates fried food, wicked indigestion, gestational diabetes, a wheat allergy. Clearly eggplant parmigiana wasn’t happening. I’d continue to whine incessantly wait patiently. Heck, even in tip top shape, I have no desire to stand over a stove frying individual slices of eggplant and make this time- and labor-intensive dish that would just end up giving me a tummy ache. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think it tastes super-yummy. So I decided to make a simpler version that is just as saucy and cheesy and comforting, simple enough for a weeknight meal, but special enough for a nice Sunday dinner, and easy enough to just sub in some gluten free ingredients. I baked it early in the day (all so I could get you nice, cheesy, gooey photos, so by the time we ate it, the gluten free pasta had absorbed a lot of the moisture from the sauce. So you may want to think about having a little extra sauce on the side, if you like your pasta especially saucy, like The Hubby. I loved it just as it was. And the aroma that filled my house as it was baking was incredible. Just like being in a fabulous Italian restaurant. It was all I could do to keep myself from shoving all the cheesy bites in my mouth as I was photographing it. I can’t guarantee that it’ll help induce labor, but I can guarantee that it’ll induce smiles and “Mmmmmmmssssss” from your family. As I mentioned, this recipe is part of the Improv Challenge, which is a blog hop hosted by Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. A theme is given, which is two assigned ingredients. Then it is up to the participating bloggers to let the creative juices flow, and see what they can come up with. Then on the third Thursday of the month, we will all publish our new recipes based on the theme. This month’s theme – pasta & cheese. If you are have a blog and would like to join us, click on the picture to the below to learn more. If you are new to my blog, finding me because you have been following the Improv Challenge, then WELCOME! Check out the links at the bottom of this post to more great Pasta & Cheese Recipes! I can’t wait to see what everyone has come up with! What is your favorite pasta & cheese dish?
Eggplant Parmigiana Pasta Casserole
All the flavor and cheesiness of classic eggplant parm in a simpler, comforting casserole.
- About 4 c of eggplant, cut into about 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 t kosher salt
- 1/2 T olive oil
- half of a large or one medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 t dried oregano
- 1 t dried parsley
- 1 t dried basil
- 1/8 t crushed red pepper (optional)
- 1/2 c dry red wine
- One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I always use Tuttorosso)
- salt and pepper
- 8 oz. penne or ziti, cooked slightly al dente, according to package instructions (I used gluten-free quinoa pasta
- 8 oz. mozzarella, thinly sliced (I used fresh mozzarella, though I am sure the regular kind will work just fine)
- 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 c Italian seasoned bread crumbs (I used gluten-free)
- Optional: additional pasta sauce and/or parmesan cheese for serving.
- Place the eggplant in a bowl or colander, and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for abut 10 minutes, and squeeze out the moisture with a kitchen towel or paper towels.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until softened and translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, until fragrant.
- Add the eggplant and dried herbs, and saute for 5-6 minutes, until eggplant is starting to soften.
- Add the red wine, reduce for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes, and simmer till heated through.
- In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400°F, and prepare the pasta. Coat a casserole dish with olive oil or cooking spray.
- Combine the pasta with the eggplant and sauce mixture, and layer about half in the casserole dish.
- Layer about half of the mozzarella slices on top of the pasta mixture, sprinkle with ¼ c parmesan cheese and ¼ c breadcrumbs.
- Layer the remaining pasta mixture in the casserole dish, and top with the remaining mozzarella, parmesan and bread crumbs.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.
Enjoy! Eggplant parm not your style? I’ve got more pasta & cheese…
- Two-Cheese Butternut Squash Macaroni & Cheese
- World’s Best Lasagna
- Potato Cheese & Pot Cheese Pierogies
Check out what the other Improv-ers have made… And here is some pasta & cheese from my friends...
- Homemade Spaghetti-Os from A Pinch of Glitter
- Ranch Ham, Cheese & Veggie Pasta from Crumbs & Chaos
- Spaghetti with Butternut Leek Parmesan Sauce from Skinnytaste