Eggplant Is The Secret To Meat-Free Ragu With Hearty, Caramelized Flavors

Typically made of braised meat in a rich sauce of red wine and tomatoes, ragu is a beloved classic. Although meat like ground beef or pork often lend the dish its savory taste, they can be swapped for vegetables to produce a ragu that's just as flavorful. Opt for eggplant in your ragu for a hearty, meat-free sauce.

There's nothing about ragu that screams "simplistic." It involves the most full-bodied vino you can find, cooked down into a sauce of meat and sweet tomatoes that have already been simmering away. Because eggplant has a mild flavor, it may not be the most obvious choice for ragu. However, our eggplant ragout with creamy polenta showcases a different side to the subtle nightshade. Before adding eggplant straight into a ragu, the slices are seared in olive oil so they take on a deeper flavor thanks to the caramelization process.

The crisp, outer edges of the eggplant pieces give way to a buttery, tender center that melts into the sauce beautifully. Speaking of the sauce, it's enhanced with pureed eggplant for a creamier texture. Since eggplant tends to be on the absorbent side, add the seared pieces to the sauce in the last 15 minutes of cooking. In the end, you'll have a hearty, earthy sauce that's great for fans of ratatouille.

Serve eggplant ragu in these delicious ways

While our recipe calls for serving the eggplant ragu over a bed of creamy polenta, this robust sauce is incredible with your favorite pasta or rice. Dish the ragu over long, wavy strands of pappardelle. Toss with tangy goat cheese and garnish with fresh thyme for an eggplant ragu that is sure to impress. Or serve it with a fresh chopped Caprese salad. Either way, you'll love pulling out this pairing at your next dinner party.

Create the ultimate cozy meal by baking your eggplant ragu and pasta. Once the sauce is simmered to perfection, add cooked pasta into the pot and mix well. Pour everything into a baking dish and cover the food with shredded mozzarella. Bake for around 10 to 15 minutes and broil for two more in order to brown the cheese slightly. Remove the dish from the oven and finish with red pepper flakes and feta.

Infuse your ragu with a deeper taste by roasting the eggplant before pureeing it. Usually used to give tomatoes and peppers a smokier flavor, the method also caramelizes eggplant before it gets stirred into the sauce. This way the eggplant has more depth and it becomes softer when cooked, giving the sauce a smooth, buttery texture that's delicious over cauliflower rice.