Roasted Eggplant with Walnut Pesto
Every once in awhile, I’ll make a recipe that I simply cannot wait to share. This is one of those recipes.
My overexcitement for sharing a new recipe happens more than you think, which is why I’m constantly sharing recipes, but this is one of those special recipes I love to make for myself at least once a week because it’s just so darn easy. The magical combination of walnut pesto and eggplant is quite a fabulous sweet and savory match and while you may attribute roasting to winter, this dish is quite pleasing in the fall and spring, as well.
Roasting an eggplant was a bit intimidating to me for many years. I mean, eggplant is a big globe-like shaped veggie with thick skin and I often didn’t know how to prepare it just right so that it would yield the tender, meaty deliciousness no matter where I dug in – the dense middle, around the edges or deep into the base.
Before we dive into the walnut pesto, which is far greater than any traditional parmesan-laden pesto, let’s discuss the eggplant.
For this particular recipe, I chose a few different sized ivory glazed eggplants with their perfectly pale skins that were eyeing me down at the farmers market. You’re welcome to use the purple variety for this recipe, if you prefer. Whatever floats your boat. Both colors look gorgeous when roasted.
With a texture I can only describe as “tender, silky heaven”, you can enjoy this dish with a spoon or fork. Have a butter knife on hand, sure, if you’d rather slice and eat but the knife doesn’t need to do any of the work here – it should barely have to do anything at all. I think you’ll be quite surprised at how soft not only the inner flesh of the eggplant becomes from roasting, but the skin, as well. Yes, you can eat the skin.
When purchasing eggplant from the market, make sure each one is firm, without soft spots. Back at home, let them hang out on the counter. They dislike the fridge so keep them out in the open at room temperature until you’re ready to eat.
The trick here, and anytime you’re roasting eggplant, is to be aware that eggplant absorbs oil very quickly. Very, very quickly. So, you’ve gotta be ready and generous with your bottle of olive oil. If you’ve purchased a few large eggplants, add more oil, as needed. I do not suggest skimping on oil by any means because you’ll be left with a dry, unhappy, hard eggplant rather than the melting silky flesh that is effortless to eat and enjoy.
Because I make this recipe regularly, I occasionally introduce almonds instead of walnuts or parsley instead of basil when I’m creating the pesto. You can make the pesto however you’d like. Add some lemon juice or lemon zest, for a little zing. Sprinkle in a few pinches of Aleppo pepper (shown in the photo on the right) for a touch of heat.
All supplies used in this recipe can be found In My Kitchen.
Click the Play button below to hear me share a few helpful tips and walk you through the simple steps of making roasted eggplant with walnut pesto. Maybe, like me, you’ve had times when you’ve struggle to read through a recipe and follow the steps. All kinds of life circumstances–grief, trauma, stress—can tax our cognitive processing abilities, which is why I’ve created these audio clips to further support you now that I’m in this more healed place.
p.s. The walnut pesto recipe has been updated since this audio recording.
Roasted Eggplant with Walnut Pesto
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Using a sharp knife, make three parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through the skin. Then, make three more incisions at a 45 degree angle yielding a diamond-shaped pattern. Flip each eggplant half over and repeat the incisions on the skin side, as well.
- Place the eggplant halves face up on the prepared baking sheet. Note: eggplant absorbs oil very, very fast so I suggest pouring olive oil into your hands and massaging it into the eggplant halves coating the flesh and outer skin until they are nice and glossy. Sprinkle the flesh with sea salt and fresh thyme. Place the halves cut side up on the baking sheet and roast for 30-35 minutes or until very tender and golden brown.
- Meanwhile, combine all the pesto ingredients in a mini food processor and puree until it reaches your desired consistency. Season to taste with sea salt.
- Remove the eggplant from the oven, set aside to cool for 2 minutes then serve warm with the pesto.
- Store leftovers in separate sealed glass containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Lay the eggplant halves flat when storing to ensure they remain intact.