But I’m going to tell you to turn your oven on anyway (clearly I am not one of those people with the hot temperatures).
I know, why oh why am I so mean? I feel like my siblings ask themselves this question daily. I promise that I have only your best interest at heart. I mean, are you looking at what I am looking at?
Cheese, eggplant, Italian sauce and pasta?!? See, only your best interest here.
So maybe you sweat a little? What’s the big deal? Cheese, tomatoes, eggplant and pasta are worth it if you ask me. Wouldn’t you agree?
In all seriousness though, you have to make this. Maybe you don’t have to make this today if it is 90+ degrees and you just cannot bear to turn your oven on, but at some point you have to make this. The great thing about this dish is that you can make it well into the fall, even year round if you can find decent tomatoes (cherry tomatoes seem be my best bet), so it is very versatile. Think of it as a lighter lasagna, but with eggplant, angel hair and some killer fresh tomatoes, all in a basil turkey ragu like sauce. So yummy!
And speaking of tomatoes, over the weekend, my dad found me some of the prettiest heirloom tomatoes at our neighborhood farm stand. Like I am SO excited about them. The sad thing is that I am going out-of-town tomorrow until late Thursday night and am worried they’ll be all dimpled by then – Nooo! I have grand plans for those tomatoes, so assuming they are still in good shape, I already know that Friday is going to be a very delicious day.
Yay!! Also, have I ever mentioned that traveling, even little trips that are only for a short amount of time, really kind of stress me out. I want to go to all these places some day (helloo Sweden, Australia, London and Paris), but geez I HATE traveling. I’ll do it, but I really stress about it.
UGH. My Tieghan brain semi annoys me some times…ok a lot of the time…but then I make recipes like this one and I am ok with my brain again.
Alright, so here’s a little secret about this Italian eggplant bake. It’s one of those show stopper dishes that’s actually not that tricky to prepare. Unlike last week’s fast and easy recipes however, this one takes a little bit of prep time in the kitchen. The good news is that nothing is hard AND it is a great dish to prepare in advance and then just bake before dinner, making your entertaining, and really just your everyday life, that much better.
Told ya, I got your best interests in mind.
Also, if you are not wanting to fuss around with making eggplant rolls, you can do one of two things.
One: simply dice the eggplant and add it to the turkey mixture (you can also use ground chicken) when you are adding in the tomatoes. Then either toss the sauce with the pasta and top with cheese or layer the sauce over the pasta and top with cheese. Bake as directed
Two: Layer the eggplant slices with the pasta and the sauce and create a make-shift lasagna. Top with cheese and bake as directed.
Either option will taste just as good as the rolls, but I have to say that the rolls make for an extra fun presentation…and you all know I love a delicious pretty meal.
Oh, and for the cheeses, I went with fresh ricotta and mozzarella, but I would have just used burrata if I had it. You can honestly use whatever your favorite cheese is. I think that a gouda, fontina and or smoked mozzarella would all be delicious too.
But like I said, any type of cheese would be good, and um, the more the better.
Monday food should be extra cheesy! You know, to fuel us through the rest of the week. Well cheese + carbs and chocolate…Mmmm!
Italian Turkey and Tomato Basil Eggplant Roll Pasta Bake.
- 3/4 pound angel hair pasta
- 1/4 cup basil pesto
- 2 large eggplants, cut lengthwise into thin slices
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- salt + pepper to taste
- 1 pound lean ground turkey or ground chicken
- 2 cloves garlic minced or grated
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes or sub 1 (14 ounce) can san marzano tomatoes
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup milk may sub water if in a pinch
- 1/4 cup fresh mixed Italian herbs (I use basil oregano + thyme)
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 8 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
- 4 ounces mozzarella cheese sliced
- fresh parsley + basil for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until al dente, drain and add to a 9x13 inch baking dish. Add the pesto + 1 tablespoons olive oil and toss well to combine and then evenly coat the pasta.
Meanwhile, season the eggplant with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook the eggplant until light golden, 2 minutes on each side. Transfer the eggplant to a paper-towel-lined plate.
Heat the same skillet over medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. Add the ground turkey or chicken and the garlic and begin breaking up the meat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and tomato paste, give everything a good stir and cook 3-5 minutes.
Slowly pour in the red wine and milk. Season with salt + pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer, simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh herbs, crushed red peppers flakes + parmesan. Allow to cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Spoon about 1/3 of the turkey mixture over the pasta. Grab the eggplant slices and place a little of the turkey mixture in the center, roll up the eggplant and nestle it into the pasta and stand up right. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices. Depending on how large your eggplants are, you may not need all of the slices.
Dollop the ricotta cheese, over the eggplant and then add the mozzarella.
Baked for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and gooey. Garnish with fresh herbs. Enjoy!
Italian Turkey and Tomato Basil Eggplant Roll Pasta Bake… start your week off…deliciously!