Pasta with Eggplant Sauce

$6.27 recipe / $1.05 serving

Can I talk about anchovies for a second without you running away screaming? K, good.

Anchovies have a reputation in the United States as being this stinky pizza topping that nobody really likes, but the rest of the world knows that anchovies are the ultimate secret ingredient. You see, when anchovies are used in just a small amount they magnify flavors and give food that great umami richness that make your taste buds feel like they won the jackpot. In fact, anchovies are the secret ingredient that gives worcestershire sauce its magic meaty flavor. See? You didn’t know you liked anchovies, did you?

Anchovies are especially good in red sauce. This past week I was craving pasta with red sauce, but not just any red sauce. I wanted an anchovy fortified red sauce! I also wanted to throw some vegetables in there, so when I got to the store I looked around for what was on sale. Eggplant was only $1.19/lb. and also happens to be great with red sauce, so I went with that. The end product totally hit the spot and now I’ve got pasta for the week!

Pasta with Eggplant Sauce

Pasta with Eggplant Sauce

4.5 from 4 reviews
Pasta with Eggplant Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $6.27
Cost Per Serving: $1.05
Serves: 6 (2oz. pasta each)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil $0.32
  • 2 cloves garlic $0.16
  • 1 small onion $0.52
  • 1 tsp anchovy paste (or 3 anchovy filets) $0.17
  • 1 med eggplant (about 1 lb.) $1.23
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans diced or crushed tomatoes $1.18
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste $0.11
  • 1 tsp dried basil $0.10
  • 1 tsp sugar $0.02
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (optional) $0.03
  • Freshly cracked pepper (10-15 cranks of a mill) $0.05
  • ½ salt (or to taste) $0.02
  • 12 oz. pasta $1.49
  • Handful fresh parsley, chopped (optional) $0.25
  • 6 Tbsp grated Parmesan $0.62
  1. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Sauté the onion, garlic, and anchovy paste with olive oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat until the onion is soft and transparent (about 5 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, cut the eggplant into small, ½ inch cubes. Once the onions have softened, add the eggplant and continue to sauté until the eggplant is dark and soft (about 10 minutes).
  3. Once the eggplant is soft, add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, sugar, crushed red pepper, and freshly cracked pepper. Stir well to combine, place a lid on top, and allow the skillet to come up to simmer. Once it reaches a simmer, turn the heat down to low and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. While the skillet is simmering, cook the pasta according to the package directions (boil 7-10 minutes, or until al dente).
  5. After the skillet has simmered for at least 20 minutes (it can simmer longer if needed), add salt to taste. Begin with ¼ tsp and add more until it reaches the desired level of saltiness. I used ½ tsp total.
  6. Drain the pasta, then return it to the pot with the heat turned off. Add the eggplant sauce and toss to coat. Top each serving with about 1 Tbsp of grated Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.


Pasta with Eggplant Sauce


Step by Step Photos

Anchovy Paste

In the past I’ve always purchased anchovy filets packed in oil. This time I decided to buy some anchovy paste (it’s nothing more than anchovies, salt, and olive oil) because it seemed easier to work with and I can just store the tube in the refrigerator. I used 1 tsp anchovy paste, which I estimate is about the same as about 3 anchovy filets.

Onion, Garlic, Anchovy

You can make this in a large skillet as long as it has a lid, or just use a large pot. Dice one small onion and mince two cloves of garlic. Sauté the onion, garlic, and 1 tsp anchovy paste in the skillet with 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat until the onions are soft and transparent.

Dice Eggplant

Meanwhile, cut the eggplant into cubes. I used one small eggplant that weighed about 1 lb. The easiest way to do this is to cut the eggplant into rounds, stack about 3-4 rounds at a time, then cut them into squares. My cubes were about 3/4 inch across, but I wished I had made them slightly smaller. Aim for about 1/2 inch.

Soft Onions

When the onions are soft and transparent, you can add the eggplant cubes. The anchovies will make them look slightly grey, but that’s nothing to worry about.

Soft Eggplant

Add the eggplant cubes and continue to sauté over medium heat until they are soft and dark. As they cook they get soft and dark kind of like mushrooms do. This took about 10 minutes.

Tomatoes and Herbs

Once the eggplant are soft, add two 15-ounce cans of diced tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes if you don’t want such a chunky texture), 2 Tbsp tomato paste, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp sugar, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and about 10-15 cranks of freshly cracked pepper. Stir it all together well. Place a lid on top and allow it to come up to a simmer. Once it begins simmering, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 20 minutes.


While the sauce is simmering, go ahead and cook 12 oz. (3/4 lb) pasta. I have to mention that I’ve fallen in love with this slightly more expensive pasta. I used to buy the cheapest available, but now I spend a few extra pennies (it’s less than a dollar more per pound) to get this good stuff. The rough texture of the pasta is what makes it so good. It really grabs onto the sauce well and just has a really nice dense texture.

Simmered Sauce

After 20 minutes of simmering, the sauce is really flavorful and the vegetables have broken down a bit. Season the sauce with salt to your taste. Start with 1/4 tsp and add more as needed. I added 1/2 tsp total and then it was just right for me.

Finished PastaAdd the cooked and drained pasta, then toss to coat in the sauce. It might be easier to add the drained pasta back to the big pot that it cooked in (heat turned off, of course), then add the sauce to the pot. It can be really difficult to stir a super full skillet!

Pasta with Eggplant Sauce

I like to add a little chopped fresh parsley and a light sprinkle of grated Parmesan. Perfection!

Pasta with Eggplant Sauce

Want a closer look? Yessssss.



  1. Ooh! Pasta alla normal one of my favourites! Will definitely try it out with anchovy paste next time!

  2. Lindsay says:

    I usually love all your stuff but I couldn’t get past the fishy taste with this dish. I started over and omitted the anchovy paste. It was great!

  3. Alana says:

    This recipe looks amazing. I’ve been hunting around for anchovy paste, but I can’t seem to find it. If you use the anchovy filets, do you grind them up somehow, or do you just toss ’em in there?

  4. Samantha says:

    I’ve been craving pasta like crazy the past few days, so I made this for dinner tonight…wow! What a great twist to normal tomato sauce. I used anchovy fillets since I was unable to find paste, but it was still wonderful. I added quite a generous helping of chilli flakes because I like it spicy :) can’t wait to eat this again tomorrow, I’m sure it’ll be even better once the flavours have melded!!!

  5. Dawn says:

    I have only tried to cook eggplant twice. So when you cut up the eggplant do you need to salt them. The time I didn’t it came out very bitter. But when I salted I taste salt not eggplant. Ugh! I do like eggplant but apparently can’t cook it.

    • I’ve never had a problem with bitterness, so I never salt, BUT I think I’m just not very sensitive to bitter flavors. I tend to like foods that are considered bitter (coffee, collard greens, dark cocoa, etc.) I would try salting, but use much less salt and let it sit for a while longer.

  6. dave says:

    Hi Beth,
    made this last night.
    My wife was skeptical.
    She not a big eggplant fan.
    Nor does she like anchovy’s other than in Cesar dressing.
    But she loved it and she could not detect the anchovy paste. Which with her is a big deal as she has a supper scene of taste. Anyway we both vote 5 stars. Or as we says “it’s good enough that we would serve it to company”

  7. Candace says:

    I made this last night– it was so good! I ended up not having enough crushed tomatoes so I used one 15oz can, and then added some chopped tomatoes and white wine. It ended up thicker than a normal pasta sauce, but that was OK because I served it on top of quinoa instead of with pasta.

    The point being that this was a very delicious and adaptable recipe :)

  8. Athanasia says:

    I do something similar but I prepare it all back at harvest time. I chop up my onions, eggplant (about 1/4″dice), bell peppers, sometimes zucchini too. Saute all in olive oil with lots of garlic. I only add a dash of soy sauce for seasoning . Then I package into one cup and two cup containers for
    the freezer. The two cup is good for
    adding a meat like layer to lasagna. I make my spaghetti sauce as needed using one of the two cups , just add one freezer container to the hot sauce (1 qt jar of tomato juice and one qt jar of whole tomatoes , mashed a bit. Add sliced mushrooms if you have them. Simmer until thickened with your usual seasoning. Ready in 1/2 hour.

  9. I am also curious about the spaghetti you used. Did you buy at the supermarket, or at a specialty store?

    • It was just at my regular grocery store. It’s Delallo brand. We have a large Italian population here, though, so I don’t know if it’s widely available around the country.

  10. Rachel says:

    To make this vegetarian can I just omit the anchovies, or do you think it would be bland without them?

  11. Maggie says:

    Hey Beth,
    I plan to use anchovy filets since that’s what I have. How would you store leftover filets? In their oil in the fridge? Can they be frozen? Thanks!

    • I don’t know about freezing, but you can definitely refrigerate them. I don’t know how long they’ll stay good, though. I’d have to research that (aka Google. Hahah) :)

  12. You didn’t mention the name of the spaghetti – can I ask what it is? Also, I have been looking for anchovy paste in the stores but can’t find it – is there something that is an acceptable substitute?

  13. Did I miss the name of the spaghetti you used? This sounds great!

    • Annie says:

      Looks like Garofalo linguine to me (made from semolina, hence the coarse texture).

    • It’s Delallo brand. I’m not sure if it’s available everywhere, but If you see another brand with this same rough texture, it will also be great. :)

  14. While this pasta looks delicious, I’m a vegetarian and don’t eat anchovies. Is this ingredient vital to the recipe? Is there something I can use instead, or can I leave it out altogether?

    • I feel like it is vital because it really adds a lot of depth to the flavor of the sauce. So, for me it’s vital, but perhaps you’d still like it without?

      • Athanasia says:

        For those that don’t want to use the anchovies try adding soy sauce. Or tamari. I cook a lot of meatless dishes and I add tamari when I am cooking a dish normally made with ground beef. I mentioned it my comment below.

    • Michelle says:

      I have a recipe that uses some mellow white miso as a substitute for anchovy paste in a red sauce recipe. Because I have never knowingly had sauce with anchovies, I don’t know if it’s a good substitution. BUT, I do know that I love the flavor the miso adds to my sauce.

    • Lisanne says:

      I found out that grounded black olives work pretty well to replace anchovies. In my supermarket, they sell some paste of black olives. Just add one or two teaspoon to replace anchovies in this recipe.

  15. Janet says:

    Is there a brand name on that pasta?

  16. This has really inspired me – I could totally see myself adding in an additional step of whirring up the sauce in the blender and pouring it over penne or rigatoni, covering it in cheese and baking it off! Do you think that would affect the anchovy flavor at all?

  17. Well, this is a great idea for the eggplant I have from my weekly CSA. :)

  18. Christina says:

    This looks so good! I have been craving eggplant and was considering eggplant parm but this looks so much better! I love all of your recipes, I have tried so many with great success!

    I love fish and anchovies sound so good for this… however my boyfriend hates fish and anything fishy- is the anchovy taste strong or very noticeable? Also did you find the paste in the store isle along with the canned anchovies?

    • It really doesn’t taste fishy at all, it’s crazy! It just kind of blends into the background to make it really savory, but no fishy taste. You can smell the fishiness when you’re first cooking the onions, garlic, and anchovies, but after that it disappears. Yes, in my store it was near the canned anchovies (and tuna, canned salmon, etc.)

      • Christina says:

        Gotcha, thank you so much! Can’t wait to make this next week! I made your Coconut Vegetable Curry tonight and it was fabulous- I added mushrooms and bell peppers because I had them on hand… It was so delicious!

  19. Jenn says:

    Love eggplant. Love, love, love. The boyfriend? Not so much. I need to convert him. I need to convert him using this recipe. To the grocery store!!!

    This looks fabulous, can’t wait to try it!

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