The next few months feature a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables that are ripe and delicious and affordable like no other time of the year. I love it. There is nothing like asparagus in the spring when it is tender and delicious or tomatoes in the summer when they are juicy and meaty at the same time. However, I’m always in a small quandary with all these vegetables. I love baked pasta and roasted vegetables but hate turning my oven on at all for the next few months.
However, this pasta is completely worth it. And while hearty and filling like all baked pasta should be, it still tastes light, fresh, and springy, which not all baked pasta can achieve. The other great thing about this recipe is that you can mix up the veggies a bit based on what you have or what is in season. Zucchini or summer squashes would mix in deliciously. Asparagus was a nice addition in this batch. This freezes well, if you want to save it for cooler months when you want a reminder of what summer tasted like.
Eggplant and Orzo Baked Pasta (Serves 4-6)
1 large eggplant, cut into ¾-inch dice
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup diced carrot
½ cup diced celery stalk
1 cup chopped asparagus
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces orzo
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 ½ cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 to 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or more to taste, up to the zest of a whole lemon
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces mozzarella, diced
¼ cup grated parmesan
3-4 large tomatoes, diced
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Sprinkle eggplant with salt. Let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. OR Place eggplant on several layers of coffee filters or paper towels. Microwave for 10 minutes, or until beginning to look slightly shriveled.
3. Heat a large frying pan with the 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute eggplant for 8 minutes, stirring pieces occasionally. Transfer them to paper towels to drain.
4. Heat remaining oil in pan. Add carrots, celery, and asparagus. Cook for 3 minutes, then add onion and garlic. Cook 5 more minutes on medium to medium-high heat. to remaining oil and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat. Stir in the orzo and tomato paste ,and cook for two minutes more. Remove from heat and add eggplant, stock, oregano, lemon zest, pepper, mozzarella, and tomatoes. Mix well.
5. Transfer mixture to an 8×11 or 2 quarts ovenproof baking dish. Sprinkle with parmesan. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes more. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):
Protein: 15 g
Fat: 10 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 16 mg
Carbohydrates: 44 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 431 mg
Recipe Notes: As I mentioned above, mix up the veggies however you like it. And don’t be too scared of adding celery. You don’t taste it in the end. I really like the tomato flavor and the lemon flavor, so I add as much of those as I can. And DON’T precook your orzo. It is a small pasta, so it will cook just fine in the oven. If you can find whole wheat orzo, go for it. My smaller grocery store doesn’t carry it. If you are freezing, freeze it before baking. Then bake in at 350 until cooked through, probably 1 – 1 ½ hours.
Source: slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen