I don’t make marinara often. Mostly because we don’t eat a ton of pasta. But also because I don’t think there’s anything really mind-blowing about plain ‘ol tomato sauce.
Somewhere in Italy they just yelled at me. Not only for the “tomato sauce” vs. “marinara” discrepancy, but for not liking it in the first place. Before you judge little old me, however, let me explain: if I’m going to carbo-load and have pasta for dinner (usually at a restaurant), I want it to be totally decadent. Cream sauce, pesto, meat sauce, ravioli, tortelloni, cannelloni, lasagna—I want to go all out.
But back here, in the simplistic and limited-ingredient world of my kitchen, I was craving a healthy pasta dish. Noodles, some type of vegetable-based sauce, and that’s it. No cream, no meat, no stuffed anything. But how to make it taste good? How to give it flavor when tomatoes this time of year are red mush inside a pretty tomato-looking package? And, most importantly, how to make it taste sinful without any of the fattening stuff?
I started with spice. Crushed red pepper, kosher salt, and freshly-ground black pepper.
And then I grabbed an eggplant.
Okay, that’s a lie. An eggplant was delivered to me in our produce order and I needed to use it up before it turned into eggplant mush. All in all the perfect candidate for an experimental sauce.
I halved it…
…and then chopped it into 1″ pieces.
I also had one yellow onion on hand that I needed to use.
First person is getting old. Let’s switch.
Chop off the ends, peel and skin.
Cut into quarters…
…and then cut each quarter into four slivers.
Grab a half-head of garlic…
…lop off the ends…
…and peel the cloves.
Give ‘em a rough chop.
Pile all three veggies into a bowl and drizzle with two tablespoons of olive oil.
Toss in your crushed red pepper. One tablespoon if you like it hot, two teaspoons if you want it medium, and one teaspoon if you’re only flirting with the idea of spice.
Toss to coat and place in a baking dish lined with foil. Roast in a 450F oven for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.
Done! Perfectly roasted, tender and flavorful.
Take a large fork and mash the veggies up a bit. I like a really chunky sauce, so mash more if you like it smoother and less if you like it chunkier.
Toss the roasted veggies into a large saucepan and add one can of diced tomatoes…
…and one small can of tomato paste.
Also pour in one cup of good quality red wine. You’ve heard me say it a million times before, but don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink. Because you will die. And by “die,” I mean a rogue band of Italian chefs will kill you. Or me.
Either way, it’s bad.
Add one teaspoon each dried basil and oregano. If you have fresh herbs, by all means use them!
Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. The longer the better.
Oh yeah, baby. Chunky, spicy marinara full of tender eggplant and aromatic garlic.
Serve over any kind of pasta that you like. This sauce would also be kick-booty as a dip for garlic bread with some mozzarella melted on top.
There I go getting all fattening again.
Roasting the eggplant with garlic and onions beforehand really helps bring a rich flavor to the sauce.
This is a total Lady and the Tramp moment in the making. If only I had two dogs.
I am a little in love with this marinara. The eggplant gave it a richness that is hard to beat in a vegetable-based sauce, the spice was intense but not burning, and the red wine gave it depth.
A perfect sauce for me. Husband (who doesn’t even eat pasta unless there is no other alternative) even scarfed bowls of the stuff. It’s a veggie pasta sauce for meat-lovers. Total score.
Happy marinara making!
Spicy Roasted Eggplant Marinara
- 1 whole eggplant, chopped into 1″ pieces
- 1 yellow onion, chopped into 1″ wedges
- 6-7 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 cup good quality red wine
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper, depending on desired level of spice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 can diced red tomatoes
- 1 can tomato paste
Preheat oven to 450F. Toss chopped eggplant, garlic and onion with olive oil. Add crushed red pepper, salt, and ground pepper and toss to coat. Pour into a baking dish lined with foil and roast for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.
Mash roasted vegetables with a fork. Pour into a large saucepan and add diced tomatoes, tomato paste and red wine. Stir, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer for at least 30 minutes or up to a few hours. Serve over pasta. Serves 6-8.
If you like, this sauce would also be delicious with added spicy italian sausage, ground turkey or beef, or meatballs.