This recipe has been stamped with a gigantic “V” for VEGAN.
You’re probably wondering what in the deep-fried ravioli a vegan recipe is doing on a blog that champions making biscuit dough with bacon fat drippings, but I am proud to share that I just finished a week-long vegan cleanse and I am feeling like a lean, mean vegan machine … with a routine … that’s pristine … and I’m done. Seriously though, I have never had more energy or felt better!
I was in a rut after returning from a vacation in which I ate like I had a 13-year-old boy’s metabolism and drank like I was a college freshman. Don’t get me wrong, every single buttery bite and bubbly sip was worth it. But upon my return I realized I needed an eatitude adjustment. I did some research, talked to a fellow vegan and set myself up for the challenge.
I’ll be honest: I had some concerns about eating vegan (even just for one week). No meat? No eggs? No milk? No problem. But no cheese? NO #@&*!%$ CHEESE?! Cheese is my favorite food on the planet, and I knew that was going to be tough. Aside from my Parmesan withdrawals, my other concern was being hungry, as those who know me best will tell you that I am one cranky kitty when I don’t eat. But the total absence of hunger pangs was the biggest surprise of my week-long journey. Not once was this doughnut-loving girl hungry.
I’m not here to tell you to go vegan—not for a day, not for one week, not for a lifetime. But I am here to share that eating vegan has completely changed my approach to food. I have so much more respect for the power of whole grains and soy in our daily diet. While I could never be entirely vegan (blue cheese is my kryptonite), I will continue doing these week-long cleanses whenever I’m in need of a fresh start. So have no fear! Just a Taste is definitely not morphing into a health blog. Stay tuned for all of the usual cheese-stuffed, butter-loaded favorites, along with a few more diet-friendly options sprinkled in along the way.
Enough already, let’s get on to the food! This is my favorite go-to (vegan) pasta sauce that I spoon over whole wheat shells, or eat straight from the bowl. Arrabiata is a classic Roman sauce made with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and crushed red pepper flakes. It’s fast, fresh, spicy and the perfect dish for weeknight dinners. Grab a fork and dig in!
- 1 eggplant (1 ½ lbs.)
- Olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes, (Recommended: San Marzano)
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 pound whole wheat pasta shells
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Dice the eggplant into bite-sized cubes and toss them onto the baking sheet (even rows aren't necessary, just make sure they're spread out far enough so they're not touching). Drizzle the eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Roast the eggplant for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half-way through the roasting time.
- Make the arrabiata sauce by heating a large pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, then add the minced garlic and cook for 3 minutes until it's golden. Add the crushed tomatoes and red pepper flakes.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer and let it cook for 20 minutes. Season it with salt and pepper to taste.
- Make the pasta according to package directions.
- Once the eggplant is done roasting, add it to the arrabiata sauce, tossing to coat.
- Spoon the eggplant arrabiata sauce over a bowl of pasta and serve.
- You may have to simmer your sauce longer depending on the amount of liquid in your crushed tomatoes. I prefer the San Marzano brand because the tomatoes come in their natural, thick pureé rather than water, which dilutes the sauce.
- You can up the crushed red pepper flakes to 1½ or even 2 teaspoons if you like more of a kick.
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My family and I really enjoyed this recipe. Thank you so much for sharing it. :)
You are so welcome, Jacki!
No need to salt the eggplant and let it sit for 15 minutesto draw the bitterness out before you roast it?
Hi Cindy! I don’t generally salt eggplant when I’m roasting it, and especially when it’s going straight into a sauce. But you can feel free to salt/drain it if you prefer that specific taste. This is one of my absolute favorite recipes so I hope you enjoy it!
oh, and of course, frying them is always the cooking procedure of my choice with eggplants!!!
Kelly: I love your butter-loaded recipes ;) but I am also very intrigued by your vegan week. I love doing these kind of challenges that put our routine/lifestyle/approach/preconceptions into perspective (I am currently doing a week-long hunger challenge, eating at $4.72 per day). The Italian diet has many aspects of veganism (especially in the past, when there was no choice for proteins), so this is a great recipe. It’s close to “pasta alla norma”, just without the ricotta salata… I have a challenging time with roasting the eggplants in the oven, as they tend to shrivel and always seem in need for more oil… but I recently found that microwaving them for a little before roasting them helps to keep them moiist! (P.s. I always enjoy your casual-chic food styling)
Hi Amelia! I am fascinated by your “$4.72 a day” challenge and cannot wait to hear your thoughts on what it was like. I hope you’ll be sharing info on your blog! And I have had luck with roasting eggplant, but I do like to keep the oil to a minimum. I haven’t had issues with it drying out, but only because the roasted pieces get plopped right into the warm sauce, immediately soaking up the juice. And I do love the idea of a little ricotta salata in this (after my vegan cleanse)!
This looks fantastic! I love your philosophy of having both “cheese-stuffed and butter-loaded” alongside healthier options…both can be delicious! I am by no stretch of the imagination vegan or a healthy eater but I do enjoy good food, whether it a bacon studded biscuit or a bowl or quinoa with roasted squash :) So glad to discover your blog and thanks for leaving a comment on mine! :)
Thank you so much, Joey! I was thrilled to find your blog and can’t wait to continue following all of your culinary adventures.
This looks delicious! I love eggplant, but the skin usually ends up on the side of the plate because it’s so tough. Is there a secret to finding an eggplant with tender skin, or should I just peel it before roasting?
Hi Christina! I always worry about the skin being too tough as well, but when you use this high-heat roasting method it really softens it (and I think it actually helps it keep its shape so it’s not too mushy). You could also try using Japanese eggplant (longer, more slender variety), as they have thinner skin. Hope this helps!
oh wow! This looks delish with some of my favorite ingredients!
Loves eggplant – this will be my dinner !!!
Thanks so much for stopping by, Jun! Your recipe for Laksa Asam looks spectacular and I’ll have to try that soon!
Making this for lunch. Yummy!
W-O-W. Yes please, I’ll take 8 bowls.
Hi Bev! I actually did end up eating eight bowls of this over the course of 10 days :) It was lunch and/or dinner. The sauce is great just plain (if you’re looking to go low-carb) because the eggplant makes it hearty. Enjoy!