Rustic No Fuss Eggplant Arrabbiata

Arrabbiata is a spicy tomato sauce made with lots of garlic and chili peppers. Although it literally translates to “angry,” no one, unless perhaps Tom Brady, will be angry if you make this Rustic No Fuss Eggplant Arrabbiata for dinner tonight. This dish can be adjusted, with equally delicious results, to suit vegans, those who eat gluten free, and/or eaters who are allergic to eggs! Win-win-win.

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The spicy kick is not the only thing setting this apart from your average eggplant parmesan or eggplant rollatini. Those traditional configurations of eggplant, sauce and cheese are much more particular, and I dare say, unnecessary. Admittedly, I appreciate an impeccable eggplant parmesan. And my mother’s meticulously rolled eggplant rollatini, held together by toothpicks before being baked in the oven might just be the inspiration for this dish. But here’s why this Rustic No Fuss Eggplant Arrabbiata should replace all of that…well…fuss:

  1. No frying. No mess. No three step dredge resulting in a once-normal hand transformed into 5 breaded thumbs.

  2. It can be made gluten free — easily. See #1. Toasted breadcrumb topping is 100% optional.

  3. All plant. No egg. Since the eggplant is not breaded, we skip the egg dredge.

  4. Mix and match or even omit (gasp!) the cheese. Fresh Mozzarella is a classic in eggplant parmesan and ricotta makes for a luscious rollatini, but here you can use either, both, add parmesan or pecorino romano, or leave out the cheese entirely. And thus (see #3), this dish can be made vegan without any of those questionable imitation vegan “cheeses”.

  5. Any sized casserole or baking dish with high sides will work. This fuss free eggplant bake doesn’t require a perfect fit, normally forcing you to transfer the partially layered contents of your eggplant bake into another better fitting vessel, three times, creating a sink full of dishes before you’ve put anything in the oven.

  6. No rolling. No toothpicks. Sorry to take away your fun, mom.

  7. I’m sure there is a 7th reason and perhaps even an 8th, but I want to share this with you before eggplant season has passed.

Rustic No Fuss Eggplant Arrabbiata

Serves: 4-6

What You Need:

  • 2 medium eggplant

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • 4-5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

  • red pepper flakes (crushed red pepper), to taste

  • 1 cup ricotta cheese or 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced or 3-4 tablespoons pecorino romano or combination

  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1-2 cups Quick Spicy Tomato Basil Marinara or your favorite version

  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (seasoned if you like), optional

What You Do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  2. If desired, peel the eggplant. (Note: I always leave the skin intact for color, flavor and nutrients but if you want your overall bite to have a more silky texture, peel the eggplant). Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch thick slabs (or rounds if that is your preference).

  3. Lay the eggplant slices out in a single layer on the cutting board or baking sheets. Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. Flip and sprinkle salt on the other side. Allow to sit for at least 10 minutes so that the moisture sweats out of the eggplant.

  4. Using a clean kitchen towel, pat the eggplant dry. Flip and pat dry on the other side as well.

  5. Transfer to a baking sheet and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Flip and drizzle olive oil on the other side. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if desired. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until eggplant is golden brown and crisp around the edges, flipping the eggplant slices and rotating the pan halfway through.

  6. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix cheeses together with freshly ground black pepper.

  7. In a baking dish with high sides, ladle a few spoonfuls of sauce, arrange about 1/4 of your eggplant slices in a single layer over the sauce. Dollop 1/4 of your cheese mixture across the eggplant slices. Repeat until you have used all of your ingredients, finishing with a layer of sauce on top. Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes on top, if desired.

  8. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned around edges.

  9. Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium high, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and sauté, stirring frequently until lightly browned, about 4 minutes.

  10. Remove eggplant from the oven, and top with the toasted breadcrumbs. Allow to cool 5 minutes before serving.