Whenever I’m craving cheesy pasta but want something lighter, I make a vegetable gratin. Less caloric (because there’s no pasta) but cheesy and full of flavor nonetheless, vegetable gratins make great lunches with a light salad or can also be served as a side dish for dinner. I stumbled upon a roasted eggplant gratin while browsing through Yotam Ottolenghi‘s website looking for something to cook with eggplants, and as usual, I fell in love with his recipe. I slightly adapted it according to my likings, but the bulk of it remains the same — roasted eggplants layered with an arugula pesto, fresh sliced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. It’s delicious and so easy to make!
The first step is to cut the eggplants into thick slices and roast them with olive oil, salt and pepper. This will bring the dish tons of flavor and is definitely worth the additional 25 minutes, so don’t skip it! While the eggplants are roasting, you can make the arugula pesto by mixing arugula, walnuts, basil, garlic, grated parmesan cheese, olive oil, water, salt and pepper in a food processor. The pesto should be slightly chunky and not too liquid so that it can be easily spread over the roasted eggplants when you start layering the vegetables in a baking dish.
Once the eggplants are roasted, golden and smelling incredible, you can start layering all the vegetables in a baking dish. Start by spreading the bottom of the dish with a couple of spoonfuls of passata — a type of thick tomato sauce, but if you don’t have any on hand I’m sure regular tomato sauce would work too — and then add a layer of roasted eggplants, half of the pesto, sliced tomatoes and mozzarella. Repeat the same steps with one more layer, ending with a thick coat of passata and topping it all with mozzarella and grated parmesan cheese. Bake the dish for 35 to 40 minutes until the cheese is melted and the tomatoes are golden. Decorate the gratin with roughly chopped basil leaves and serve warm — no leftovers guaranteed!
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- 3½ cups arugula
- ½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted
- ½ cup basil leaves
- 2 small garlic cloves
- 6 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons water
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Olive oil
- 4 medium eggplants, cut into thick slices
- 6 tomatoes, sliced into thick coins
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons passata or tomato sauce
- 250g mozzarella, shredded
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Basil leaves
- Preheat oven to 200°C/390°F and line two big baking sheets with baking paper.
- Start by preparing the arugula pesto. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until fully mixed. The pesto should be chunky and not too liquid. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
- Place all the eggplant slices side by side on the baking sheets. Brush all sides of the slices with olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes until golden and cooked through. Set aside.
- Grease a rectangular baking dish with olive oil. Pour 2 tablespoons passata on the bottom of the baking dish and spread it evenly across the dish with the back of a spoon. Lay a first layer of eggplant slices. Top with half of the arugula pesto, spreading it evenly over the eggplants with the back of a spoon. Top with one layer of tomato slices and half of the mozzarella. Repeat the process again, starting with a second layer of eggplant slices and topping them with the arugula pesto, tomato slices and remaining mozzarella. Pour the passata over the top of the vegetables and spread evenly with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle some more grated parmesan cheese over the top.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the tomatoes are golden. Serve warm topped with some fresh basil leaves.