Project Delicious

Eggplant Orzo Bake

Here’s an interesting factoid: In over five years of blogging, I’ve never made a straight up eggplant parmesan dish. I’ve stacked it, rolled it, and even stuffed it, but never just made a classic version.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason to start today! This baked Eggplant Orzo casserole comes as close, flavor wise, to the traditional dish though. It skips a lot of the work though and is a lot easier to serve.

The final dish has chunks of slightly charred eggplant and pockets of mozzarella that make it a super-addictive dinner and one that will keep you warm on these cold nights.

Yield
Serves 4-6.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Yum

Eggplant Orzo Bake

An easier take on eggplant parmesan. This eggplant orzo is easy to toss together and bakes into a delicious pasta casserole.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant (about a pound), cubed and salted
2 teaspoons herbs de provence
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 rib celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
8 ounces orzo pasta, cooked
8-10 ounces mozzarella, cubed
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

Helpful Equipment

Casserole dish
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Directions

1) Cube eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes. Place cubes in a colander and sprinkle with about a teaspoon of salt. Put a bowl filled with water on top of the eggplant to press. Let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prep other ingredients.

2) You can cook orzo in advance. When done, rinse with cold water and toss orzo with a drizzle of olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking.

3) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. When eggplant is done pressing, rinse with cold water. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add eggplant pieces and cook for 8-10 minutes until eggplant pieces are browned and lightly charred. Add herbs de provence and red pepper flakes to the eggplant and cook for another minute. Remove from the pan.

4) Add another drizzle of oil to the skillet. Add onions, carrots, celery, and red pepper and cook until veggies are softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute.

5) In a large bowl, stir together eggplant, veggies, orzo, tomatoes, and diced mozzarella. Season the mixture with a pinch of salt and pepper.

6) Transfer the mixture to a 2 1/2 quart (or 9×13) baking dish. Dust heavily with grated Parmesan cheese.

7) Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. covered with foil. Then uncover and bake for another 15-20 minutes.

8) Serve baked pasta while warm!

Eggplant Orzo

Prepping the Eggplant

The most annoying step in this Eggplant Orzo recipe is dealing with the eggplant. Anytime you are working with large eggplants like this, you need to salt and press them to get out some of the bitterness. If you can find baby eggplants, you can just use those and skip this step entirely!

If you’re using a big one though, just cut it into cubes and toss it with about a teaspoon of kosher salt. Then put the cubes in a colander and press them down with some weight. I just use a bowl filled with water that will nest inside the colander.

Cubed and salted eggplant for Eggplant Orzo

Cubed and salted.

Let the cubes press for about 30 minutes and then rinse them really well with cold water and dry them off with a few paper towels.

To cook the eggplant, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant cubes and cook them until they are tender and browned on the sides. This should take around 10 minutes.

At the very end of cooking, hit them with some red pepper flakes and herbs de provence.

Just a quick sear - Eggplant Orzo

Just a quick sear.

Building Flavors

Besides the eggplant, I chopped up a few other veggies that will enhance the flavor of the dish. You can just chop these while the eggplant is pressing.

Good basic veg.

Good basic veg.

When the eggplant is lightly charred, remove it from your skillet, add a fresh drizzle of oil and add all the veggies. Cook them for a few minutes until they are softened and add the garlic last so it doesn’t burn. Once the garlic is in, cook for another minute or so.

Same deal. Quick saute.

Same deal. Quick saute.

At some point, cook your orzo according to the package. Rinse it well with cold water once it is tender and then toss it with a drizzle of oil to keep it from sticking.

Casserole-ing

Stir the sauteed eggplant, vegetables, tomatoes, and orzo together in a big bowl.

All mixed up! Eggplant - Orzo

All mixed up!

Add in the mozzarella (I used fresh) and season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Don't forget the mozz! - Eggplant Orzo

Don’t forget the mozz!

Scoop this all into a 2 1/2 quart baking dish or a 9×13 baking dish will work also.

Dust the Eggplant Orzo casserole with a layer of Parmesan cheese.

A parm crust on the Eggplant Orzo

A parm crust.

Cover this sucker and bake it for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Then uncover it and bake it for another 15-20 minutes so the top gets a bit crispy.

It’s a thing of beauty.

Eggplant Orzo ~ Macheesmo

It’s like eggplant parm, but easier.

Maybe someday I’ll make a traditional eggplant parmesan, but until then you’ll just have to make this Eggplant Orzo.

Poor you.

14 comments on “Eggplant Orzo Bake

  1. This is indeed a thing of beauty! Interestingly, I never salt my eggplant. I did once, as a teenager, hated it & never did it again. Also, my husband (who hates doing the dishes) wonders if I can skip the big bowl & mix everything in the final baking dish? ;-) I don’t do a lot of pasta these days, but this is on my list. Thanks again!!

  2. I put eggplant on my pizza often and cube it and roast it without salting it first, works pretty good. That looks really yummy! I will be making it soon

  3. You do such a great job of explaining why to do something, like salting the eggplant, and showing how to easily do it! You make recipes that look so elegant and tasty look easy to do. I will definitely try this one! Orzo looks great, too? How about israeli couscous (little bigger pasta balls than traditional couscous size) rather than the orzo?

    1. Hey Valerie! Thanks! I definitely try… I think Israeli couscous would be an awesome substitution. They would work fantastic in a dish like this I think. If you try it out, report back!

  4. OMG, I made this for dinner tonite! This is a keeper recipe..the herbs are the perfect spice combination. Thanks for creating something so yummy:)

  5. I made it for dinner last night too! It was very good and easy. How could you not love this? Okay, here’s what I did that was different. I added a link of homemade Italian sweet sausage. (Husband makes it) and cooked that out of the casing in olive oil before I added the eggplant chunks. Used thyme and oregano instead of herbs de Provence. Then I just cooked the onion, garlic and pepper and tomatoes in with the sausage and eggplant. Mixed in the orzo and cheeses and baked for a bit. Well done, Nick! Thanks again for a great idea for dinner.

    1. I loved your sausage addition, Virginia, and added some grilled vegetarian sliced “sausage” links ( Litelife Italian Style) to leftovers which made it a very yummy variation. Thanks for the tip! Btw, I had the Litelife Italian Sausages in an omelette and couldn’t believe that they weren’t meat….very tasty on pizzas or anything else as a substitute for pork sausage.

  6. I made a double recipe: one for now and one for the freezer. I used Israeli couscous, didn’t have whole mozzarella and substituted shredded (not as pretty but it worked). I also added chopped baby portobello mushrooms. Next time I will try some mini-mozzarella balls which I think would be fun with the Israeli couscous, and might add some chopped zucchini for more veggies. I took some pics if you’re interested but I don’t know the address to send them to. The fire roasted tomatoes really make the dish! Yum yum and Thank You!

  7. 5 stars! My boyfriend and I loved this dish. The only thing I did differently is I used 2 teaspoons of Italian blend seasoning since I didn’t have the herbs de Provence. Also I over crowded the pan and the eggplant didn’t really get seared on one side. Oh well, still delicious. Also I really enjoy this rating system. Great job Nick!

  8. Oh my gosh!!!!!!!! A happy family tonight! This dish was fantastic! I used oregano from our garden, roasted tomatoes I had, the pasta shape we had….. The way the eggplant was cooked twice was incredible, it was not a heavy baked dish which was nice…. Thank you,,,

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