Roasted eggplant with tomato sauce is a simple garden-to-table appetizer. Sliced eggplant is roasted and topped with an easy garlicky tomato sauce, fresh basil and mint, and freshly grated salty Ricotta Salata.
It's no secret that eggplant is a favorite in my family. Whether it is making an appearance in polpette di melanzana, or in eggplant parmigiana, this beloved purple plant graces our tabletop on the regular.
It's easy to grow in home gardens, easy to find in grocery stores, and is one of the most popular veggies to use in Italian-American dishes, specifically those with Sicilian influence.
If I want to make an easy meal with minimal ingredients, I make this roasted eggplant dish and serve it alongside a simple pasta with cherry tomatoes. It really doesn't get easier!
Sicilian inspired roasted eggplant
My grandfather was Sicilian and anytime I can pay homage to him and my ancestors, I try to do so.
Sicily is an island, and its proximity to the sea has made it vulnerable to influences from surrounding areas for millennia. Essentially, Sicilian food is the result of a melting pot of cultures.
You'll often notice an overlap of North African and Greek flavors in many Sicilian dishes.
Perhaps the most famous of Sicilian eggplant dishes is Pasta alla Norma, which includes ingredients very similar to this roasted eggplant with tomato sauce appetizer.
Eggplant appetizer ingredients, and substitutions
For this recipe, I used medium-sized American eggplants, canned plum tomatoes, fresh basil and mint, olive oil, and Ricotta Salata.
Ricotta Salata is a firm, salty cheese and is nothing like fresh ricotta. Ricotta Salata isn't always easy to find, so if you can't get your hands on some, you'd be just as well off using Pecorino Romano, which is more widely available.
Yes, you can make this with zucchini, if you don't have eggplant, or you can even do a combination of the two.
Feel free to omit the mint if you don't like it, or omit the basil. They can both be used independently of each other.
And if you don't have basil or mint, you can opt for parsley, or even oregano. Any of these flavors would go well.
How to make roasted eggplant with tomato sauce
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- To start, preheat your oven to 400f and set the rack to the middle level. Slice your eggplant into ⅜ to ½" discs and spread out onto 2 baking sheets, taking care to not overcrowd. Brush each disc with a bit of olive oil on each side and sprinkle the eggplant discs evenly with salt and pepper. Place the eggplant in the oven and begin to roast for 25 - 30 minutes, flipping the pieces at the halfway point.
- While the eggplant is roasting, begin to prepare your sauce by first slicing 4 cloves of garlic. If you are using whole peeled tomatoes, use your hands to crush them, or you may pulse in the blender (just for a couple of seconds).
- In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, saute the garlic in a ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil until golden, about 2-3 minutes.
- Once the garlic is golden, add the red pepper flakes and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add the crushed tomatoes to the pan and bring the sauce to a low simmer, stirring occasionally. Add in the dried oregano and stir together. Taste test the sauce, and if needed, add in a ½ tsp or so of kosher salt. Once satisfied with the taste, remove from the heat and set aside.
- Once the eggplant is done roasting and is soft, and cooked through remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few moments. While it is cooling, you can chop the mint and the basil.
- Spoon a thin layer of sauce onto a platter large enough to hold the eggplant discs. Lay the eggplant on top of the sauce, and top with more sauce.
- Sprinkle the chopped basil and mint on top of the eggplant. Right before serving, grate the Ricotta Salata all over the eggplant. The eggplant can be served right away, or at room temperature.
When to serve it
This side dish is so versatile and can be served any night of the week!
But it also holds up well and travels nicely so you could easily bring it to a gathering, such as a summer barbecue or other event.
The thing I love about this eggplant dish, is that it appeals to almost all individuals, regardless of diet.
There are no breadcrumbs, so it's gluten free.
There is no meat, so it's vegetarian friendly, and if you omit the ricotta salata, it's vegan.
It's also perfect for those following the Mediterranean diet.
So it's usually a big hit at gatherings as it is the ultimate inclusive appetizer.
More eggplant dishes
If you like eggplant, you've come to the right place. In addition to all the eggplant recipes mentioned above be sure to check out our Italian pickled eggplant and this pasta alla Siciliana recipe.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe for roasted eggplant with tomato sauce, or any recipe on this site, we want to know so tell us in the comments below. We would love to hear how you did and it’s nice to show others as well. Thanks!
For the eggplant
- 2 large eggplant cut into ⅜" discs
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 ounces Ricotta Salata grated
- ¼ cup mint chopped
- ¼ cup basil chopped
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for finishing
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
For the sauce
- 1 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes hand crushed or blender pulsed
- 4 cloves garlic sliced
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano preferably Sicilian
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- Preheat oven to 400f and set rack to the middle level. Spread eggplant onto 2 baking sheets (don't overcrowd eggplant) and brush on a bit of olive oil on each side. Sprinkle the eggplant evenly with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and a ½ teaspoon of black pepper.
- Roast the eggplant, flipping the pieces at halfway point, for 25-30 minutes or until soft and cooked through.
- While eggplant is roasting prepare the sauce. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat saute the sliced garlic in a ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil until golden (about 2-3 minutes). Once the garlic turns golden add in the red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Next, add in the plum tomatoes and bring sauce to a low simmer, stirring occasionally. Add in the dried oregano and stir together. Taste test the sauce and if required add in a ½ teaspoon or so of kosher salt. Once satisfied with the taste of the sauce, remove from the heat and set aside.
- Spoon a bit of the sauce onto a large platter. Lay all of the eggplant discs on the plate then spoon more sauce on top of the eggplant. Sprinkle the mint and basil on top and drizzle a bit of high-quality extra virgin olive oil. Before serving, grate the Ricotta Salata all over the eggplant. The eggplant can be served right away or at room temperature. Enjoy!
- The roasted eggplant can be grilled instead of baked. Grilling for 5-6 minutes per side over a medium-heat grill will work well.
- Pecorino Romano can be substituted for the Ricotta Salata, which might prove difficult to find.
- The eggplant can be served, and is delicious, at room temperature.