I've made this recipe for a Chicken and Penne Casserole at work a couple times now, and thought I'd whip up a batch to use at home. The eggplant, so often categorized as a bland vegetable, adds a spicy brightness to the sauce, and the color is so pretty once everything is blended together.
The basis for this sauce was this Casserole recipe, from a fellow food blog that is not particularly vegan-friendly, but has some great basic recipes and is perfect for cooking ideas for kids.
Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Pasta Sauce:
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped roughly
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced in half
1 to 1 1/2 cups eggplant, peeled and chopped
6 pieces artichoke hearts (optional)
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. Sriracha
Salt and Pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, coating the foil with a bit of olive oil to discourage sticking. Place the whole tomatoes on the cookie sheet and set the juice aside, as it will get added back later. Insert the garlic slices into the tomatoes, making sure that they are well-concealed. Add the chopped onion, and sprinkle the cookie sheet with the herbs, salt, and pepper.
Place the cookie sheet in the oven and let the tomatoes roast and the onions soften for 20 minutes. While the tomatoes are cooking away, prepare the eggplant by removing the skin and slicing into chunks, allowing for the maximum browning area.
Also, check out this eggplant! It's freaking yuuuuuge! Apparently, its size is making me shifty-eyed and nervous.
Heat a medium or large frying pan over medium to medium-high heat, adding a good amount of olive oil, as the eggplant is going to soak it up aggressively before calming down and releasing some of it back. Once your plan is hot, add the eggplant and the artichoke hearts (if you're using them) and really let everything caramelize well in the pan. This may take up to 10 minutes, moving the eggplant around occasionally to stimulate browning but avoid sticking.
Once your eggplant is done, place it into the food processor where it can wait for the tomatoes to finish in the oven.
And now the required food processor before and after: