Penne with Eggplant and Pine Nut Crunch

by Erin

This pasta dish is loaded with roasted vegetables: penne with eggplant, bell pepper, tomato, onion, shallot, and a pesto pine nut crunch topping.

Vegetarian Penne with Eggplant and Pesto.

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I’m a sucker for recipes with pine nuts in the ingredient list, especially when combined with a pile of basil. I just cannot help myself! (But at least I can restrain myself from eating an entire batch of fresh homemade ice cream in one sitting.)

As you can expect with such a proclamation, while searching for what to make for dinner this was an immediate win, without contest. Especially since I am trying to bring more vegetables into my meals.

Bonus points that some of the ingredients were grown right in my back yard – basil and cherry tomatoes. I wish we had eggplant and sweet bell peppers, but alas, maybe next year.

Penne with Eggplant and Pine Nut Crunch.

The medley between the pile of roasted veggies and penne in this dish are topped off with a basil-Parmesan-pine nut mixture and then a little Mozzarella. Yes that topping sounds a lot like basil pesto because it basically is except without the olive oil to make it runny.

If you are a fanatic (and have money to burn – but hopefully not literally burn), you could add more whole pine nuts on top to get all nice and toasted while the pasta bakes together. I didn’t have any to spare but maybe next time ;-). Regardless, in the end all the chopping and cooking time pays off in flavor.

Want more vegetable packed pasta dishes?

Post updated 8/18/22, photo above is the original.

Vegetarian Penne with Eggplant and Pesto.


Yield: 8 servings Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat


  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups (firmly packed) fresh basil leaves, divided
  • 1-1/4 cup freshly graded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 large cloves garlic, divided
  • 1 (15 oz.) can whole plum tomatoes in juice
  • 1/4 cup fat free milk
  • 2 Tbsp fat free plain Greek yogurt
  • 16 oz. whole wheat penne
  • Fresh mozzarella for grating over the top


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray two large rimmed baking sheets with nonstick spray. Divide eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, shallot, and yellow onion and spread in a single layer. Drizzle veggies with olive oil. Toss. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast veggies until tender, stirring often and rotating halfway through, 35-45 minutes.
  2. Combine 3/4 cup basil, 3/4 cup Parmesan, pine nuts, and 2 garlic cloves in food processor. Blend until crumbly. Season with salt. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Blend tomatoes with juice, milk, Greek yogurt, 1-1/4 cups basil, and remaining garlic clove in processor until smooth. Season sauce with salt and pepper.
  4. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain. Return to pot. Toss with veggies, tomato sauce, and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Transfer to a 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella and pine nut topping.
  5. Bake pasta until heated through, 25-35 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes and serve.
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Ronald W Vasicek September 1, 2022 - 2:57 pm

This looks like one that would be good for me so I will try it out.

cakewhiz May 19, 2011 - 8:58 pm

i LOVE pasta and especially with nuts. have you tried cashews? even those add a great crunch.
your dish looks wonderful and it’s a great way to add eggplants into our diet!

spiffycookie May 20, 2011 - 9:02 am

I have not tried cashews in pasta yet, sounds great! And thanks :-) it’s actually from Bon Appetit magazine originally.


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