Pasta with a Sauce of Eggplant, Sweet Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, and Lemon

Preparation info

  • Serves


    • Difficulty


Appears in

Welcome to Claire's: 35 Years of Recipes and Reflections from the Landmark Vegetarian Restaurant

Welcome to Claire's

By Claire Criscuolo

Published 2014

  • About

Although we make this delicious sauce year round at Claire’s, there’s no denying it—summer produce tastes the best and we take full advantage of the work from our beloved farmers when we can.


  • 3 small eggplants, cut into 1 -inch cubes (about 8 cups)
  • Salt
  • 1 pound pasta, homemade or other
  • ¼ cup good extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 6 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pint container cherry tomatoes
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, whole
  • ¼ cup fresh oregano, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
  • 8 bocconcini (little balls of fresh mozzarella; found in the cheese section at the supermarket)


    1. Place the cubes of eggplant in a large bowl. Sprinkle a tablespoon of salt evenly over the eggplant and toss to coat, using your hands or two wooden spoons. Set aside for about 25 minutes, tossing again every 5 minutes or so to allow some of the water from the eggplant to be released.
    2. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil in a covered pot over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Before draining, reserve 2 cups of the cooking liquid. (If you leave a measuring cup in a colander set in the sink, it’s easier to remember to reserve the cooking liquid before draining.)
    3. Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, cherry tomatoes, and salt to taste. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are softened but not browned.
    4. Lift out a handful of the eggplant, and using two hands, squeeze out as much liquid as possible, leaving the dark liquid in the bowl. Add the squeezed eggplant to the pot with the onions. Continue with the remaining eggplant, again leaving the dark liquid in the bowl. Discard the liquid left behind from the eggplant.
    5. Stir the eggplant to coat with the oil and to combine with the other ingredients in the pot. Stir in the basil and oregano. Cover and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally until the eggplant is just tender. Add the lemon juice and the reserved cooking liquid from the pasta. Stir to combine.
    6. Add the cooked and drained pasta to the pot and scatter the bocconcini over the top. Stir to combine and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently until the bocconcini are nearly melted and the pasta sauce looks creamy. Taste for seasonings. Turn into a serving bowl.