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This Penne Alla Norma is a plant-based spin on the classic Sicilian dish! Tender eggplant and red peppers simmered in a homemade tomato sauce, then tossed with al dente pasta. It’s the perfect weeknight meal any day of the week! 

completed Easy Penne Alla Norma (Eggplant Pasta) on a white plate
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Veggie Loaded Eggplant Penne

 If you’re new to cooking eggplant recipes, this eggplant penne alla norma is as simple as it gets! It’s ready start to finish in just 30 minutes and is a great way to get your veggies in. It’s also incredibly easy to customize to suit your taste buds and the seasons. Don’t like eggplant? Try zucchini! Don’t like spinach? Just leave it out. This recipe is flexible like that, which makes it perfect for families, kids, and weekly meal planning


If you’re interested in more eggplant recipes, you’ll love this Perfect Sautéed Eggplant, this Eggplant Pasta with Crispy Hazelnuts, and these Eggplant Stacks

The Ingredients

ingredients for Easy Penne Alla Norma (Eggplant Pasta) measured out against a white surface
  • Pasta: We used penne, but use your favorite pasta. If you are gluten-free, use your favorite gluten-free noodles, spaghetti squash or zoodles. 
  • Aromatics: You’ll need a simple blend of onion and garlic. We recommend fresh for the best flavor, but dried onion powder and garlic powder can work in a pinch. 
  • Eggplant: This recipe works best with a small eggplant that is low in seeds. Eggplant is typically in season during the late summer and early fall months and will be the most fresh in grocery stores during these months. When shopping for fresh eggplant, look for firm, blemish-free eggplants! 
  • Red peppers: Pasta alla norma is not traditionally made with red peppers, but we can’t resist an opportunity to get more veggies in! Any bell peppers of choice will work well. 
  • Sugar: Any granulated sugar or liquid sweetener will work. You may not need any sugar at all if your tomato sauce is homemade or not very acidic. Taste and decide! 
  • Tomato sauce: Canned tomato sauce is our go-to because it’s budget friendly and can be kept in the pantry for several months. If you happen to have homemade tomato sauce, please use it!  
  • Spinach: Another non-traditional penne alla norma ingredient, but we love the boost of nutrition. Fresh or frozen spinach works in this recipe. 
  • Chili flakes: A pinch of red chili flakes adds a bit of heat and flavor to the eggplant pasta. Adjust to your personal preference. 

Add-ins and Substitutions

  • Add vegan ricotta: This dish is often served with grated ricotta salata cheese. Instead, we’d recommend enjoying this pasta without cheese or topping with Vegan Tofu Ricotta Cheese.
  • Add veggies: In addition to fresh eggplants, red peppers, and spinach, this eggplant pasta recipe would be delicious with zucchini, mushrooms, kale, roasted tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, kalamata olives, and more! Don’t be afraid to switch it up. 

How to Make Penne Alla Norma

  • 1) In a large pot of salted water, begin to cook the pasta according to package instructions. Most pasta, regular or gluten-free, takes about 10-12 minutes to cook until al dente, but always follow the instructions on your particular pasta. 
  • 2) Meanwhile, in a hot skillet, heat the olive oil until warmed through. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the garlic from burning. 
  • 3) Next, add the eggplant and peppers and season with salt and black pepper. Allow the eggplant cubes and diced red pepper to sauté for about 5 minutes, or until beginning to soften. 
  • 4) Add in the tomato sauce along with a pinch of sugar to help balance the acidity. Stir to combine until the vegetables are well coated. Allow to simmer for 3-4 minutes, then add a handful of baby spinach. 
  • 5) Once the penne pasta is cooked through, drain the pasta water and add the cooked pasta directly into the skillet with the eggplant pasta sauce. Toss until well combined. 
  • 6) Serve penne alla norma immediately while hot and enjoy! 

Recipe FAQs

Is this a traditional pasta alla norma recipe?

It is not a traditional recipe. Similar to my Eggplant Pasta with Crispy Hazelnuts, this recipe is a plant-based twist on the original pasta alla norma. In addition to being made without dairy, it’s also made with additional veggies to make it more wholesome and nutritious. If you have enjoyed the traditional recipe, we are certain you will love this recipe. 

Do I need to remove the skin on the eggplant before eating?

Eggplant skin is edible and does not need to be peeled. Eating the skin not only reduces waste, but provides additional nutrition, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and adds additional texture to the eggplant pasta. 

How do you cook eggplant so it’s not bitter?

If you purchase a small or medium-sized eggplant that is firm and shiny, it should not be bitter. However, if you find eggplant to be bitter regardless, you can blanch the chunks of eggplant before sautéing. By boiling the eggplant for 2-3 minutes, this can help remove the bitter taste. 

Top Recipe Tips 

  • Chop the eggplant and peppers uniformly. This will ensure they cook through evenly and are nice and tender with just a few minutes of sautéing. 
  • Cook the pasta until al dente. ​”Al dente” means slightly firm to the bite. The pasta should be cooked through, but still easily hold its shape and have a chewy texture. 
  • Incorporate fresh herbs. If you have fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley on hand, it would be delicious as a garnish on this pasta dish. 
completed Easy Penne Alla Norma (Eggplant Pasta) on a white plate

Serving Suggestions 

This veggie-packed pasta is hearty enough to enjoy as a standalone main, but can also be paired with simple side dishes such as No Knead Bread, Vegan Focaccia Bread, or fresh salads like this Fall Roasted Pumpkin Salad or this Strawberry Kale Salad

Storage Instructions and Make Ahead Tips

Leftover pasta will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you are making this pasta for meal prep, it can be helpful to store the eggplant sauce separately from the cooked pasta. This will help prevent the eggplant pasta from absorbing the sauce and keep the sauce from being overly thick. 

Reheat leftover pasta in the microwave or in a skillet on the stovetop until warmed through. 

More Easy Pasta Recipes 

Photos by Alfonso Revilla

Easy Penne Alla Norma (Eggplant Pasta) Recipe

4.91 from 22 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 3
This Penne Alla Norma is a plant-based spin on the classic Sicilian dish! Tender eggplant and red peppers simmered in a homemade tomato sauce, then tossed with al dente pasta. It's the perfect weeknight meal any day of the week! 

Ingredients 

  • 15-20 ounces of penne pasta
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 10 ounces of eggplant (cut into small ¼ of an inch pieces)
  • 5 ounces of red peppers (cut into small ¼ of an inch pieces)
  • Salt, pepper, sugar
  • 10 ounces of tomato sauce
  • A handful of baby spinach
  • Chili flakes (optional)

Instructions 

  • Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package (usually about 10 to 12 minutes).
  • Meanwhile, in a hot pan, start by frying the onions and garlic in some olive oil. In 2 to 3 minutes you can add to the pan the eggplant and peppers. Season with salt and pepper and let them cook for 5 minutes.
  • Now add the tomato sauce and some sugar to balance the acidity.
  • Let it simmer for 3 to 4 minutes and add the spinach.
  • Now the pasta should be ready – drain it and put it in the sauce straight away. Take it off the heat and serve!

Notes

  • Chop the eggplant and peppers uniformly. This will ensure they cook through evenly and are nice and tender with just a few minutes of sautéing. 
  • Cook the pasta until al dente. ​”Al dente” means slightly firm to the bite. The pasta should be cooked through, but still easily hold its shape and have a chewy texture. 
  • Incorporate fresh herbs. If you have fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley on hand, it would be delicious as a garnish on this pasta dish. 

Nutrition

Calories: 550kcalCarbohydrates: 106gProtein: 20gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 0.4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1gSodium: 461mgPotassium: 710mgFiber: 16gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 2849IUVitamin C: 75mgCalcium: 45mgIron: 2mg

Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

Additional Info

Author: Toni Okamoto
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Method: Stovetop
Diet: Vegan
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedOnABudget! 🙂
About

Toni Okamoto

“They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
‘Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways…
we got to start taking better care of ourselves ” – Dead Prez

More about Toni Okamoto

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Tried this egg plant penne pasta! Excellent! I ended up using Ragatoni pasta bec that is what I had at the moment! Substitute “sugar,” ingredient with raw sugar. Thank you!

  2. 4 stars
    Thank you for sharing your quick and easy eggplant penn recipe. New to making eggplant. Not a fan of eggplant. But this recipe was pretty good. Enjoyed it. Thanks.

    1. wohoo! so glad you gave it a go and enjoyed it! it’s definitely a great one to sneak in more veggies into your diet!