Gluten-free and vegan recipe for a rich, flavour packed, puttanesca pasta made with creamy charred eggplant. This smoky eggplant puttanesca is highly addictive and ready in just 30mins.
What possessed me to add the flesh of a charred eggplant to puttanesca sauce? Well, if the omnivores can have anchovies, then I can have creamy, smoky eggplant!
Pasta puttanesca is a simple pasta sauce that celebrates all that is good and salty in this world; capers, olives, pasta water and in the non-vegan version, anchovies and parmesan. For this smoky eggplant puttanesca, I’m taking some liberties and replacing those poor wee fish and hard cheese with a flavour bomb of my own. Eggplant, charred within an inch of its life and silky soft skin removed to give the pasta sauce depth and creaminess.
The result is a rich, flavourful sauce that’s full of umami and highly addictive . . . you’ve been warned!
What do you need to know before you make this recipe?
The easiest way to char a whole eggplant is on a gas hob and, if you don’t have a gas hob, you can use the grill in the oven instead, but it will take a little longer. The eggplant is ready when the skin is charred all over, and the eggplant is so soft it collapses.
The easiest way to peel a charred eggplant is to transfer it to a bowl and cover it with a plate. This will steam the eggplant, and when it’s cool enough to handle, you’ll be able to easily remove the skin.
I’ve included all the additional notes for this smoky eggplant puttanesca pasta recipe at the bottom of the page with the hope of improving your experience here at blue border. If you found this useful, I’d love your support on Instagram, click here to follow.
- 1 eggplant
- 45g / 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. capers
- 50g / ten large olives, pitted
- 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 400g / 14oz tin plum tomatoes
- 1 tsp. brown sugar
- ½ tsp. fine sea salt
- 200g / 7oz gluten-free spaghetti
- A small handle of basil or parsley, finely chopped
Char the eggplant directly on the flame of a gas hob at medium heat. Use metal tongs to turn the eggplant every few minutes until the skin is completely charred and the flesh is soft and cooked through (the eggplant will collapse when it’s ready).
OR line an oven tray with foil and turn the oven grill to medium. Place the eggplant on the tray and roast the eggplant under the grill, turning every 5 minutes or so, until the skin of the eggplant is completely charred and the flesh is soft.
Transfer the eggplant to a bowl and cover with a plate, set to one side.
While the eggplant is grilling start the puttanesca sauce and, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil for the pasta.
Add the oil, garlic and pepper to a wide-based frying pan and place on the hob at medium heat. After a minute or so, the oil will start to simmer, let the garlic cook in the heating oil for another 30secs to 1 minute, but do not let the garlic brown, or it will taste bitter. Add the capers, olives, tomato paste, tinned tomatoes, sugar and salt and simmer gently for 5-10mins.
Remove the stalky top of the eggplant, peel off the skin and discard. Roughly chop the smoky flesh of the eggplant and transfer it to the puttanesca sauce. Mix to combine and simmer for another 5-10mins.
Once the pasta water is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook according to the packet instructions. Save a cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta.
Toss the spaghetti with the puttanesca sauce and add pasta water as you need it. The puttanesca sauce should cling to the spaghetti without being claggy.
Serve topped with your choice of herb
NOTES: Smoky Eggplant Puttanesca Pasta
I’ve found the best gluten-free kinds of pasta are the ones made from 100% brown rice flour. I used the Dove’s Farm Brown Rice Spaghetti but I also love the Rizopia gluten-free spaghetti.
Traditionally pasta puttanesca is made with pitted kalamata olives. I ended up using spicy marinated green olives because that’s what I had in the pantry. Ultimately the choice is yours, but the better quality the olive, the better the sauce.
Finely chopped parsley to serve is usually the herb of choice with puttanesca. I used basil, again, because that’s what I had to hand, but you do you, honey!
Can I skip the eggplant?
Yes, definitely. If you’d prefer to keep this dish simple and classic just leave the eggplant out.
Can I use a different grilled vegetable?
Yes, I originally tried this recipe with zucchini (a.k.a. courgette) as well as eggplant and love it. Ultimately I went with the eggplant to simplify the recipe but you can grill zucchinis in the same way as the eggplant and use them instead. Grilled red peppers will are also delish.