This vegan eggplant cacciatore is made with melt-in-your mouth slabs of roasted eggplant simmered in a light white wine tomato sauce with savory mushrooms, garlic and bell peppers.
At some point when I was growing up my mom discovered chicken cacciatore and it quickly became on of her favorite dinners to make. Somehow, I don’t think I ever tried it though. I’m not sure if I’d already gone vegetarian at that point, or maybe was just close to making the switch and not terribly interested in chicken. I guess I was at an age when I wasn’t much interested in vegetables either. I’ve always been okay with veggies, but when I was thirteen I just didn’t get psyched up over eggplant and bell peppers like I do today.
Mom would’ve loved eggplant cacciatore, had I come up with it at the time, and I’m pretty sure this would’ve done wonders to work up my enthusiasm for veggies back then.
Well, here I am now with my veganized version of mom’s fave. Perfect timing actually, because not only am I perpetually psyched about veggies these days, but it’s also springtime, and a particularly chilly one when I live. This dish is perfect for (any day, but especially) spring days when there’s a little nip in the air. Though the dish features lots of summery veggies and a light sauce, but it’s also served over pasta (so it will fill you up!) and features savoy spices I crave on cooler days.
- 1 lb. Italian eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch thick slabs (see note)
- 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 6 oz. dried penne pasta
- 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1 bell pepper, any color, sliced into strips
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp. capers
- 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, or 1 tsp. dry
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rub eggplant slabs with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and arrange on baking sheet. Bake until eggplant slabs are lightly browned and tender, but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- While eggplant bakes, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain into a colander, return to the pot and toss with a bit of olive oil. Set aside.
- While eggplant bakes and pasta cooks, coat the bottom of a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and place over medium heat. Add mushrooms to skillet in an even layer. Cook about 5 minutes on each side, until slightly browned and tender. Remove from skillet and transfer to a plate.
- Add remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to skillet. Add bell onion and bell pepper. Sauté about 5 minutes, until tender. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook until liquid is reduced by about half, 3 to 4 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, capers, rosemary, oregano and red pepper flakes to skillet. Return mushrooms to skillet. Give everything a stir and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook about 5 minutes. Gently stir roasted eggplant into mixture and bring back to a simmer. Allow to cook until all veggies are tender and sauce thickens up just a bit, about 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Divide pasta among 3 or 4 plates and top with eggplant mixture, serve.
If your eggplants have been hanging around for a while, salt them first. Sprinkle slices liberally with salt and allow to sit for 30 minutes. Rinse well, then dry.
I used 3 small eggplants. If you're working with 1 or 2 larger eggplants, feel free to cut the slabs in half or even dice them so they're easier to work with.