Eggplant Bolognese Pasta

By Alexandra Caspero on August 10, 2022

Eggplant Bolognese! You’ve gotta try this plant-based eggplant ragu, so hearty and full of flavor. Roasted eggplant bolognese with mushrooms served over pasta with plenty of basil.

The perfect late summer dinner.

I clearly have a thing for bolognese. I’ve made it with tempeh, with mushrooms with red lentils and now with eggplant. And really, it might be the most perfect comfort food. Simmered all day on the stove and served over pasta (or polenta), it’s always a crowd favorite.

When I was in Italy a few years ago with my mom, I tried to eat bolognese as much as I could. Which thankfully, wasn’t very hard. A bowl of homemade pasta with bolognese sauce and a carafe of house red wine would take care of us for hours.

This eggplant bolognese sauce is almost like eggplant ragu. It’s a little more tomato-forward than a traditional bolognese recipe (and of course, doesn’t contain any sausage or ground beef!) This is a hearty, cling to your pasta type of sauce– perfect for rigatoni, penne or even wider pappardelle noodles.

rigatoni with vegan eggplant Bolognese pasta sauce

Ingredients for Eggplant Bolognese

This dish is a celebration of summer produce. It also makes plenty of sauce! Enough to coat an entire pound of pasta with some leftover. Because you need the entire eggplant, it didn’t make sense to reduce the ratio of the other ingredients. Therefore, I’m giving you plenty of sauce and it’s OK if you have some leftover. Try it on pizza!

  • Vegetables: eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini, celery, carrots, garlic and onion
  • Wine: preferably a dry red wine, like a cabernet or Chianti
  • Herbs: fresh or dried work here.
  • Pantry staples: tomato paste, canned tomatoes, pasta
  • Garnishes: fresh basil leaves, red pepper flakes, cheese (like my vegan parmesan cheese)
Rigatoni with Eggplant Ragu

During our Italy trip we got the opportunity to spend a day cooking in Tuscan villa. I tried my hardest to channel my inner Diane Lane and went crazy learning to craft wood-fired pizza, bruschetta and of course, homemade pasta with bolognese sauce. In this version, our chef used an entire bottle of red wine in the sauce. A whole bottle! While I have no problem throwing a glug or two in my sauces, I was surprised by how much this ingredient changed the bolognese game. To this day, that meal may top the best-thing-I’ve-ever-ate list.

Don’t worry. I’m not calling for an entire bottle in this recipe, though I am asking you to throw in just shy of 2 cups worth. You can save the rest for dinner or to enjoy while cooking. This works when you’ve got the time to simmer the sauce down, allowing the alcohol to cook off and the body of the wine to remain.

How to Make Eggplant Bolognese

  1. Bake the whole eggplant

    Place the eggplant in the oven and bake until very tender, 1-1 1/2 hours. Cool while preparing the rest of the sauce. roasted eggplant on a dish towel

  2. Brown the vegetables

    Heat olive oil in a large pot and add the onion, mushrooms, zucchini, celery and carrots along with a generous pinch of salt. Cook until very tender, about 15-20 minutes.

  3. Add in the spices

    Add in the garlic, dried (or fresh) herbs. Next, add in the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 8-10 minutes.

  4. Add the tomatoes

    Add the tomato paste and cook until thickened and fragrant, then add in the tomatoes. Remove the eggplant flesh from the skin and coarsely chop, then add to the sauce. ragu with eggplant pieces

  5. Simmer

    Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce is fairly thick.

eggplant ragu

Tips for Eggplant Bolognese Success

Roast the eggplant

The trick to perfect eggplant ragu? Roasting the eggplant first. You want the flesh to be almost caramelized, scooping out the tender eggplant from the charred skin to melt into the sauce. If you can’t mash the eggplant with the back of a spoon, it’s not tender enough.

Then you’ll spoon that into the tomato base along with sautéed mushrooms, carrots and celery. Let that cook for another 30 minutes or so until then eggplant is so tender, that you can’t even see it in the finished sauce. The creamy flesh adds both body and creaminess. It’s divine!

Finish cooking the pasta in the sauce

I talk about this tip all the time, but it really is the key to perfect restaurant pasta. Cook the pasta until just slightly under al dente, then drain, reserving 1-2 cups pasta water. Add about 1/3 of the pasta sauce to the warmed pan where you just cooked the pasta along with the cooked pasta and a splash of pasta water.

Cook, tossing the entire time, until the noodles finish cooking in the sauce. If the noodles because too dry, add in more sauce but keep tossing. You don’t want to drown the noodles. I sometimes add a little bit of butter here to create a beautiful glossy ragu sauce, but you don’t have to!

Rigatoni with Eggplant Ragu

I like some heat with my bolognese, so I sprinkle on plenty of red chile flakes before serving.

Serve this one with a thick noodle, like rigatoni, so the sauce can cling to the ridges and hide inside the pockets. It also tastes amazing with a big bowl of creamy polenta or a homemade gnocchi.

If you love this eggplant ragu recipe, you’ll love my other pasta recipe.

More Plant-Based Pastas:

If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and tag your Instagram photos with #delishknowledge . I absolutely love seeing your creations. Happy cooking! 

Print
rigatoni with vegan eggplant Bolognese pasta sauce

Eggplant Bolognese

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: main, sauce, dinner
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Eggplant Bolognese! You’ve gotta try this plant-based eggplant ragu, so hearty and full of flavor. Roasted eggplant bolognese with mushrooms served over pasta with plenty of basil.


  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: main, sauce, dinner
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: main, sauce, dinner
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 medium Italian globe eggplant (about 1 pound)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, stems removed and diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • Fresh basil leaves, red chili flakes and parmesan (or vegan parmesan), for garnish
  • 1 pound dried pasta of choice (like rigatoni, ziti or other pasta shape)

Instructions

  1. Bake the eggplant. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the eggplant in the middle of the oven and bake until very tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove to let cool while you prepare the rest of the sauce. 
  2. Brown the vegetables. Heat the oil in a large pot and in the onion, celery, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until very tender and soft, 15-20 minutes. Add in the garlic and the dried herbs and cook another 30-60 seconds. 
  3. Stir in the wine and the tomato paste. Add in the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. 
  4. Add the eggplant. Remove the eggplant from the skin and coarsely chop. Add into the sauce along with the crushed tomatoes and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, then simmer over low heat for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be quite thick. 
  5. Serve the pasta. When ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just under al dente (about 2 minutes from package directions). Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Add 1/2 the sauce to the pot you just cooked the pasta in along with the cooked pasta and a generous splash of the reserved pasta water. Cook over low heat, tossing the entire time, until the pasta is al dente and cooked through. Add more sauce/pasta water as needed to thin and coat. Serve with more sauce as desired, fresh basil leaves, red pepper flakes and parm cheese as desired. 

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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    1. Tish
      August 31, 2022 AT 5:42 am

      Delicious! I have a LOT of eggplant in my garden right now, will this freeze well? Again, thanks for all of your recipes!

      1. Alex
        August 31, 2022 AT 5:52 am

        Hi Tish– I haven’t frozen this recipe, but I’ve frozen sauce before and it works well.

    2. Janet
      August 10, 2022 AT 4:15 pm

      I’m not typically an eggplant fan but this was “meaty” and very yummy.

    3. Jessica Luther
      January 9, 2020 AT 7:14 am

      Is this food from Switzerland?
      I’ve seen it somewhere already, it must taste great.

    4. Andrea
      December 2, 2019 AT 4:48 pm

      Made for dinner tonight.
      Excellent recipe!
      Will definitely make again!!

      1. Alex
        December 3, 2019 AT 7:11 am

        So glad you liked it! thanks Andrea!

    5. Cat
      September 14, 2019 AT 5:51 am

      What a wonderful recipe! For someone who is a meat eater, vegan dishes aren’t often consumed in the household. I was looking to use both an eggplant and some lentils I had left over to avoid wasting them and this has fit the bill perfectly! It’s so yummy.

      1. Alex
        September 16, 2019 AT 7:26 am

        So glad you liked it! Thanks Cat!

    6. Susan Dubose
      August 15, 2019 AT 7:49 pm

      Lovely recipe! I like the addition of aubergine. I normally have lentils in the soup so I am really interested to see how they would turn out with pasta.

    7. Sharon
      August 13, 2019 AT 1:26 pm

      I made this today and it was amazing! It made me happy that I had to hang out at home waiting for phone calls that never materialized. I would strongly suggest that you repost in cooler months though, this is a perfect, stormy winter day recipe! One question I have is whether you add the seeds in the eggplant as well. I did and it is fine, but I was curious as to whether it would have been more creamier if I omitted them.

      1. Alex
        August 13, 2019 AT 4:50 pm

        Hi Sharon- yes! I make this one all Fall long, definitely one to bookmark again for when it’s not 100 degrees outside. 🙂 I did include the seeds of the eggplant because I’m lazy, it you wanted to remove them then it would likely be creamier. Or, if you like your bolognese somewhat creamy, what about a drizzle of cashew cream or other type at the end? I sometimes do this when I want a hint of richness that isn’t already there.

    8. Ike
      July 25, 2019 AT 1:43 pm

      Sorry, but why pre-heat the eggplant in an oven for a long time, when you can just dice the eggplant and add it to the rest of the sauce and simmer until ready? That’s the way I made my Eggplant Bolognese today and it tasted absolutely superb!

      So what’s the idea behind oven-heating the eggplant for a long time first?

      1. Alex
        July 29, 2019 AT 12:01 pm

        Roasting the eggplant makes the insides very, very creamy. You could try peeling the eggplant and then adding it to the sauce, but the creamy eggplant is really what gives this sauce lots of body without any dairy. I’d be worried that not roasting it first would make the sauce too soggy. If you try and it and it works, let us know! Thanks!

    9. Kali
      October 5, 2018 AT 4:07 pm

      I made this yesterday and served today over brown rice. Really delicious, especially the next day. Used Trader Joe’s ready-to-eat steamed lentil beans and chinese eggplant. The lentil beans are perfect and do not get mushy. Thank so much for the recipe.

      1. Alex
        October 9, 2018 AT 7:37 am

        Glad you liked it! Thanks Kali!

    10. Molly Bollier
      September 11, 2018 AT 3:36 pm

      This was excellent! We didn’t miss the meat at all. I was initially nervous about how much wine was required, but it was just right! Thank you!

      1. Alex
        September 12, 2018 AT 6:59 am

        So glad you liked it! Thanks Molly!