Eggplant Basil Pesto Pasta Recipe
We recently discovered a grocery which is run by multiple farmers together. Its somewhere between a farmer's market and a regular grocery store. The variety of vegetables and fruits that's available is massive! That place was like love at first sight for me. I am like a kid lost in candy store since I feel the compelling need to get all of the vegetables and fruits! I find something new every time I visit there which I have only read about but never found anywhere else in my side of the world. It gives me scope to try and experiment with new veggies. Anyways, the last time I went to this shop, I saw these mini eggplants. They were a miniature version of the large eggplant. I had never seen such eggplants this size and they looked damn cute. They were just little bigger than the Indian brinjal and I was wondering what to make with it.
Eggplant Basil Pesto Pasta Recipe
Suddenly remembered this recipe from Giada that I have been meaning to make for a long while ever since I saw it in her show. One thing that beats me is while everyone is busy grabbing the throat of Paula Deen for killing Americans with her cooking, how do they let Giada get away scot free? There is always an immensely "healthy" dose of oil, butter and cheese in all her recipes (I am not even going to the calorie count in the meat she uses - cos I wouldn't know!!) I do not comply to her policy of dousing vegetables with oodles of butter and cheese just to make it interesting to Kids. The fact that the dish probably ends up tasting of only cheese is not really doing the "healthy" vegetables a favor!  I have tried like  6-7 of her recipes and I have always managed to cut down at least half of the fat she uses easily and still finding the dish v flavorful. This dish undergoes the same treatment... Eggplant Basil Pesto Pasta Recipe I managed to cut down on the huge amount of oil and cheese in making the pesto and also the oil in cooking the eggplant. As I always insist, adding so much fat naturally will impart lot of flavor to food - we don't need chefs to tell us that! Its cooking and retaining the flavor with little fat is what needs effort and thinking! The only Chef I find for such tasks in the whole of Food Network is Ellie Krieger! She is my favorite.
  • Cook time:
  • Prep time:
  • Serves: 2 people
  • Yields: Makes 4 to 6 servings
  • For the Pesto
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • About 3 cups basil leaves loosely packed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (see Tips)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • little salt to taste
  • For the Pasta
  • 1 pound fusilli (or use trenette or penne pasta)
  • 1 large eggplant, cubed (I used 5 small eggplants)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • little salt to season
1. Parmesan : Parmesan Cheese contains rennet and hence is unsuitable for Vegetarians. You get Vegetarian Parmesan in few stores but they do not taste the same as the original. A decent alternative that I now opt for in place of Parmesan Cheese is Nutritional Yeast that works best esp. when the recipe calls for sprinkling in cheese over a dish. There are soy based Parmesan cheese available that I haven't personally used. There is also a Parmesan Sprinkle Cheese that is a combination of Nutritional yeast + Almond flour and Salt and is suitable for both Vegetarians and Vegans.

1. Cook the pasta as per package instructions.
2. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp of oil and cook the eggplant cubes. Add salt and cover with a lid until cooked. I find 1 tbsp enough to cook the eggplant instead of 1/4 cup as suggested in the original recipe. Closing with a lid also helps to create steam which cooks the eggplant faster with minimal oil.
3. While that's cooking - prepare the basil pesto. Its the traditional recipe for basil pesto. But I add minimal cheese and oil unlike many recipes which has a generous parmesan and extra virgin olive oil. Sometimes when I am going to be using all the pesto for a dish, I replace some of the oil with warm pasta water. It cuts down on the fat without compromising on the taste - try it. Add the ingredients for the pesto together.
4. Blend into smooth puree.
5. Once the eggplant is cooked, transfer it into a large bowl.
6. Add the basil pesto the eggplant. You might not need all the Pesto (depending on your taste buds) So just add little and then add more later if you feel the need. I like basil Pesto and love a nice generous coating on my pasta hence added it all.
7. Next add the Pasta.
8. and toss it well so that the pesto is coated well and the eggplant is also mixed along with the pasta. You can add some Pasta water to loosen it up if thick.
Serve warm with little grated parmesan on top. Eggplant Basil Pesto Pasta Recipe

Recipe Reference

adapted from giada's recipe

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By Divya on May 30, 2014

i would like to know how much nutritional yeast I should substitute for parmesan in this recipe? Could you please let me know?

By Weekly Meal Plan – Making everyday cooking easy #2 on May 21, 2013

[...] Eggplant Basil Pesto Pasta [...]

By Basil Pesto – Eggplant Pasta + New LocknLock deal | Cooks Joy on Apr 13, 2012

[...] compromising on taste. I am sure most of you would agree on that. Recipe adapted from Giada and DK. Ingredients – Pesto 1 cup basil leaves packed 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted 1 green chilly 2 [...]

By Anonymous on Jan 2, 2012

I see that you use parmesan cheese in your cooking. Just to let you know, PARMESAN CHEESE IS NOT VEGETARIAN!!! Unless the package says so, of course. The rennin used to make parmesan is taken from the gut of slaughtered cows... The vegetarian version is available in the market so i think you must mention this in the ingredients list every time you use it.

yes I am aware of typical parmesan having rennet in it since I make it a point to read the ingredients of whatever I buy. But there are vegetarian version available in Health foods and I buy mine from Whole Foods. But will add in Vegetarian Parmesan for those who are not aware.

By Shoba Shrinivasan on Sep 19, 2010

I completely agree with you on the fact that Giada does add a lot of cheese/oil for her cooking. But she probably eats 1/8`th of her portions at one point which explains how she looks even now after her baby!!! We make her recipes and eat a full portion!!! Great recipe and I have something similar on my blogsite too!!! Shobha

By Apu on Sep 19, 2010

Looks nice!! Love eggplant though not sure about it in pasta!!

By saumya on Sep 18, 2010

i generally use store bought frozen pesto for pasta. do you think making it at home is healther/tastier? will def try it. the recipe you posted for pesto seems to have lot of cheese and oil. is it ok to skip the cheese completely and use less oil?

Actually this Pesto is with minimal oil and cheese. Pls refer to other classic recipes in the internet and you will know the difference (along with the original recipe from Giada where I provided the link). I doubt if the store bought version has less! Also this Pesto recipe serves 4-6 servings so its quite a lot. Modifying it to use less oil and cheese is your prerogative but it will surely affect the taste and wont taste like regular pesto. Usually I cut down little more oil if I am going to use the pesto imm. by adding cooking Pasta water to it.

By Vona on Sep 18, 2010

Wow this dish sounds perfect! I like the method of cooking the eggplant with little oit and lots of steam! I generally use only whole grain pasta so it would still be great! Question will the pesto eggplant mixture gree well? As I live alone it would be a blessing!!! Thanks again for you cooking wisdom!

I think you would have to freeze eggplant and pesto separately. I am not sure if together they would stand well. Warm it up and serve with freshly cooked pasta. Also I remember reading somewhere that while freezing Pesto it is better to omit the cheese since it does not freeze well and add in the cheese later while making the dish. Personally I haven't tried any of the above methods since I prepare this as and when I make it :)

By Radhika on Sep 17, 2010

I always wanted to try this after I saw Giada making it. But, as you said the oil used in the dish was just too much. Will try your recipe for sure :) Any idea if we can use any other nuts like almonds or walnuts or peanuts as a substitute for pine nuts in the pesto?

Too much oil indeed. I found cutting the eggplant into small pieces and using 1 tbsp of oil along with salt more than enough to cook it well. And yes, covering the vessel too to create the steam. For the pesto- walnuts work v well too. I haven't personally tried with peanuts yet

By harini-jaya on Sep 17, 2010

My kids love pesto pasta..shall surely try this for them!

By nishi on Sep 17, 2010

The pasta looks so colourful and yummy. This is the first time that I have come across a pasta with eggplants. It sure is a must try for me.

By Radhika Vasanth on Sep 17, 2010

And I loved this simple and hearty Pesto Pasta.

By Radhika Vasanth on Sep 17, 2010

You said it 'Its cooking and retaining the flavor with little fat is what needs effort and thinking!' We really need to be smart in making choices otherwise we might end up gobbling loads of calories. There is nothing to compensate the satisfaction of eating a healthy meal. I had the same thought when I watched Giada. She adds loads of fat to a dish and calls it YUMMY.

By Siri on Sep 17, 2010

Oh my, it looks sooo good & yummy! :lol: *drooling*. Hugs, Siri