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A pan of pasta al forno with aubergine ragu
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5 from 10 votes

Pasta al Forno with Aubergine

This pasta al forno recipe combines rigatoni pasta, a hearty aubergine ragu and plenty of mozzarella cheese. This aubergine pasta bake is fantastic meat-free comfort food.
Prep Time40 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Worldwide
Diet: Vegetarian
Servings: 4
Calories: 562kcal


  • 300 g Penne rigate or other tube pasta e.g. rigatoni, ziti or fusilli
  • 1 Echalion shallot large
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • 1 Aubergine Approx 350g (12 oz)
  • 150 g Chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 Red pepper large
  • 1 x 400 g Tin chopped tomatoes
  • 300 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp Dried mixed herbs
  • ¼ tsp Chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • tsp Black pepper
  • 2 tbsp Double strength tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp Red pesto
  • 10 Black olives
  • 1 tbsp Pine nuts optional
  • 250 g Buffalo mozzarella


  • Preheat the oven to 190C /375F/ GM5. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water for 1-2 minutes less than recommended on the pack it should be al-dente (firm but with a little bite left). Drain and set aside
  • While the pasta is cooking, finely dice the shallot and mince the garlic. Deseed and chop the pepper into pieces approx 1 cm square. Take half of the aubergine and chop into chunks around 1 cm cubed. Mince the remaining aubergine and the mushrooms in a food processor (chop roughly before adding)
  • Fry the shallot in a little oil for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the minced garlic, fry for another minute then add the minced aubergine and mushrooms. Fry, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes, then add the pepper and aubergine chunks and fry for a further 5 minutes, stirring frequently
  • Add 150 ml of stock to the pan along with the tinned tomatoes, herbs, chilli flakes, salt, pepper and tomato puree. Stir and let cook gently for 15-20 minutes, adding more stock if the sauce looks to be drying out or getting too thick. Cook a little longer to thicken the sauce more if necessary
  • Once the vegetables are tender and the sauce looks thick enough to coat the pasta nicely, stir through the pesto, pine nuts and black olives. Next, add the pasta, mix thoroughly and transfer to an ovenproof baking dish
  • Tear the mozzarella into pieces and dot over the top of the pasta. Cover with a lid (or foil) and bake for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for a further 10 minutes until the cheese turns golden in places
  • Take out of the oven and top with fresh herbs (e.g. rosemary, thyme or parsley) before serving


Cooking Tips

  • The pasta will continue to absorb liquid from the sauce in the oven. For this reason, when boiling in the pan of water cook the pasta until barely al-dente. By retaining a definite bite to it here, your pasta will turn out perfectly cooked, rather than overcooked (soggy), when it is served
  • The exact cooking time for your pasta will depend on the brand and size. Check your pack instructions for a guide and test for doneness several minutes ahead of this recommended time
  • Ensure the sauce is not too thick or too thin. Add a splash more stock to thin it out if it looks too thick and cook for a little longer if the sauce appears too watery and thin
  • To cut down on washing up use a pan that can go from the hob to the oven. A large cast-iron casserole pot is ideal
  • To prevent the pasta bake from drying out in the oven, ensure it is covered for the first 20 minutes of the cooking time. Remove the lid/ foil for the final 10 minutes just to allow the cheese to pick up a little colour
  • The stretchy nature and fuller flavour of buffalo mozzarella is a pleaser in this dish but cheddar, goats cheese, taleggio or blue cheese, such as gorgonzola, also work well

Make in Advance

You can pre-assemble this aubergine pasta bake recipe in advance, right up to the point of baking. At this point, cool, cover and refrigerate the pasta bake for up to a day. Let sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours before baking to avoid finding a cold spot in the centre.
Bake (still covered) at 190C/375F for 25 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to heat for a further 10 minutes, until hot throughout.
Please note: the longer the pasta sits in the sauce, the more liquid it absorbs. If made in advance, this dish will be a little less saucy than pictured here. You can drizzle a couple of tablespoons of water into the dish before baking to help alleviate this issue.


Any leftovers can be cooled, wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight, then take out of the fridge for an hour before cooking it. Add a splash of water and mix through to help loosen the sauce again, then either microwave or reheat in the oven (covered in foil) at 190C/375F for about 20-25 minutes until hot throughout.


Calories: 562kcal | Carbohydrates: 74g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 775mg | Potassium: 856mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 2943IU | Vitamin C: 44mg | Calcium: 1453mg | Iron: 2mg