Whether you call it Aubergine or Eggplant, there is no denying how rich and delicious this vegetable ragu is! Slow cooked for maximum flavour, Aubergine Ragu is the perfect pairing for pasta.
Like almost everyone, I am trying to cut down on how much meat I consume and love making vegetarian and plant-based meals more regular in my weekly meal plan. This slow cooked eggplant ragu is so hearty and full of flavour that even the most reluctant vegetarians will love it.
If you are looking for a vegetarian bolognese with a shorter cooking time then try my Lentil and Mushroom Bolognese. And my Easy Turkey Bolognese is a great lighter and quicker take on the traditional version.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Aubergine or Eggplant – see below for instructions on how to prepare the aubergine/eggplant for cooking.
- Tinned Tomatoes – I usually go for plum tomatoes but you can used chopped. I always say get the best quality you can reasonably afford as not all tinned tomatoes are created equal and some can be very watery. If it is within your budget I suggest keeping an eye on your preferred brand and stocking up if its ever on offer, as they have so many uses. Cirio is my personal favourite and my local supermarket often has discount offers on the multipacks.
- Tomato Puree/Paste
- Red Wine – you can omit the wine if you don’t consume alcohol.
- Dried Oregano
- Dried Thyme
- Fresh Rosemary – Discard the woody stalks and finely chop the leaves. Or substitute 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary.
- Soft Brown Sugar
- Vegetable Stock – you can use a cube or save veggie scraps, keep them in a container in the freezer and when you have enough make a vat of your own vegetable stock.
- Worcester Sauce – Gives the sauce a lovely savoury umami taste. The most famous Worcestershire Sauce, Lea & Perrins, contains fish and therefore is not vegan or vegetarian friendly so obviously please avoid that particular brand if you do not consume any animal products. There are plenty of alternatives like the Biona Vegan Worcester and a quick Google search will bring up a lot of recipes to make your own at home. You can also substitute a vegan friendly alternative to Worcestershire like coconut aminos, Henderson’s Relish or Soy Sauce. If you eat fish then you can also substitute 4 anchovy fillets instead – these will melt into the sauce beautifully for that rich, salty umami flavour.
How to Prepare Aubergine for Ragu
If you have never tried an Aubergine before, it is a large bulbous fruit (yes – technically it is a berry, though they are typically eaten as a vegetable and used mostly in savoury dishes) with a dark purple to black skin and a spongy flesh which becomes lovely and soft when cooked. Common in Mediterranean cuisine, Aubergine, or Eggplant as it is known as in the US, has a delicate smoky flavour.
Aubergines’ soft and spongy flesh means that during cooking it has a tendency to soak up a lot of oil and other cooking liquid. To counteract this, the aubergine needs a little extra preparation before it can be used in this ragu.
To prepare, cut the aubergine into roughly 2cm cubes. There is no need to peel it first. Add the diced aubergine to a colander or lay out on some kitchen paper or a clean tea towel. Sprinkle about one teaspoon of salt over the aubergine pieces then leave for 45 minutes to one hour. This process will draw out the moisture and ensure lovely, silky aubergines for the ragu sauce.
My favourite way to serve Aubergine Ragu is with Pappardelle Pasta and lashings of grated salty pecorino cheese. You can serve it with any type of pasta – either long shapes like spaghetti or shorter pasta like rigatoni or fusilli.
This recipe will provide enough sauce for one typical 500g packet of pasta. To serve, add the cooked pasta directly to the pot with the Ragu sauce and stir in a few tablespoons of starchy pasta water to help the sauce cling to the pasta.
This veggie ragu also works beautifully with creamy polenta, gnocchi or a grain like quinoa or rice. You can also use this ragu as a topping for baked potatoes.
How to Store
This recipe will make 6 generous portions of pasta sauce and will store, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat on the stove or in the microwave until piping hot and add a splash of pasta cooking water to loosen the reheated ragu.
If you are feeding a smaller crowd you can portion it out after cooking and freeze for a quick weeknight dinner. One portion is roughly ⅔ cups or 150ml. This veggie pasta sauce freezes perfectly – defrost overnight in the fridge or using the defrost setting on your microwave.
Aubergine Ragu is suitable for a vegan diet when prepared with a vegan Worcester Sauce (or alternative) and a vegan red wine.
To make this Ragu gluten free, use a gluten free vegetable stock and serve with gluten free pasta or a suitable alternative such as polenta or rice.
Absolutley – this recipe makes 6 portions, but can easily be doubled. Use the slider at the top of the recipe card for ingredient quantities, the cooking time and method should stay the same.
More delicious vegetarian pasta dishes you will love:
- Easy Pasta Alfredo
- Burst Cherry Tomato Pasta
- Garlic Mushroom Pasta with Herby Breadcrumbs
- Gnocchi Bake with Tomato, Mozzarella and Red Pepper
Aubergine Ragu with Pappardelle
- 1 Sharp Knife for chopping vegetables
- 1 colander
- 1 Dutch Oven or oven proof casserole dish with lid
- 2 aubergines cut into 2cm cubes
- 2 carrots diced
- 1 large white onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves diced
- 2 celery stalks diced
- 2 tbsp Worcester Sauce see notes
- 2 tbsp tomato puree or tomato paste
- 800 grams peeled plum tomatoes 2 regular tins
- 120 ml red wine
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 250 ml vegetable stock
- 500 grams pappardelle pasta or other pasta of your choice
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Dice the aubergine and add to a colander. Sprinkle generously with salt and allow to rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour to draw out the moisture.
- Preheat the oven to 160°c/140°c fan/gas 3/320f.
- Heat a glug of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the aubergine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the aubergine begins to brown and you start to see signs of caramelisation.
- Add the onions and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until they turn translucent.
- Add the carrots, celery, herbs and garlic along with a generous pinch of salt and pepper and continue cooking for another 4-5 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato puree, Worcester sauce and sugar then pour in the wine. Allow to simmer gently for 10 minutes then pour in the tinned tomatoes and the vegetable stock.
- Bring to the boil, stir well, then put the lid on and place in the preheated oven for 4 hours.
- To serve, cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Reserve a cup of pasta cooking water when draining.
- Remove the ragu from the oven, give it a good stir and add salt and pepper to taste if needed. Stir in the pasta plus 2-3 tbsp of cooing water and toss. Add more pasta water as required to help the ragu cling to the pasta and create a silky sauce.
- Serve with grated pecorino cheese and fresh chopped parsley.