Despite this week's unseasonably warm temperatures, I've been spending a lot of time with my oven. Big batches of granola, buckwheat apple scones, pasta bakes -- they're all I crave once fall officially arrives. This baked pasta is a riff on a dinner I make for myself on a regular basis, with various vegetables swapped in and out depending on my mood. It reheats well and is comforting in the way that only copious amounts of melted cheese can be.
Baked Tomato-Eggplant Pasta
8 ounces pasta, cooked just to al dente
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small eggplant, diced
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup freshly-grated mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook pasta (elbows, penne or shells work best here) and set aside.
In a large pan, warm olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, salt and pepper and sautée for a few minutes, or until translucent. Next, add garlic, tomatoes and eggplant and continue to sautée until the eggplant has absorbed most of the olive oil and is starting to brown. Add the spinach and pasta and remove pan from heat once the spinach has completely wilted. Sprinkle in all of the basil and some of the cheese, mix and pour into a large baking dish.
Top the pasta with the remaining cheese (and I add a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar here to cut the rich cheese with some acidity) and bake for about 20-25 minutes. For the last few minutes, broil the dish so the cheese on top gets extra brown and bubbly.