Eggplant Challenge: Roasted Ratatouille Pasta with Fresh Mozzarella

Looks meaty, doesn’t it?  Sort of like portobello mushrooms, eggplant adds a rich texture and hearty flavor that will allow even a carnivore to overlook meat for just one night.  For this challenge, I whipped up a ratatouille-inspired mix of late summer vegetables, roasted them in the oven until soft and then used it as a chunky pasta sauce by tossing with penne pasta and fresh mozzarella.  Everyone at my house, even the kids, loved it.

Roasted Ratatouille Pasta with Fresh Mozzarella

2 lbs. eggplant, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 in. thick
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved if large
1 lb. yellow squash or zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 in. thick
1/2 med. red onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 t. dried thyme
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil or 1 T. dried
1/4 c. olive oil
4-6 servings pasta (I used penne, but you can use farfalle or your favorite type)
1 container fresh mozzarella (halved, if bocconcini style, or cubed if larger)
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1/3 c. fresh basil, julienned

Heat oven to 400.  Prepare the eggplant, tomatoes and squash to be roughly the same size pieces.  Toss the vegetables, onion, garlic and herbs together with olive oil and spread on rimmed baking pan in one layer (use two pans if needed).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roast, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes or until softened and fragrant.  While vegetables are roasting, cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and put into a large bowl.  When vegetables are done, dump the entire pan (vegetables and their liquid) on the cooked pasta, drizzle with balsamic vinegar, add fresh mozzarella and fresh basil and toss gently until combined.  Serve with crusty bread.