This Baked Orzo with Eggplant is a great meat-free meal option that also makes for great next-day leftovers. But you can also enjoy it as a side dish to any meal!
(This recipe for Baked Orzo with Eggplant was originally published in September 2012, but was updated with new photos in 2019).
Hallelujah to this week being almost over! Though, to be honest, I’ve been so busy lately that my days absolutely fly by. Which means my weeks fly by, too. Which also means my weekends do. I need a big giant pause button. There’s nothing quite like having a fun-packed weekend, except that it’s over before you can breathe out a little sigh and say, “man, I love life.” That’s exactly how I felt this past weekend.
On Saturday, we celebrated my fabulous mom’s birthday, which was on Monday. In true Anderson family fashion, we all gathered together for a celebratory dinner. It was an extra exciting event as it was also the first dinner party at my sister and Adam’s brand new house. Which is conveniently about 2 miles from our apartment. Which, in the suburbs, may as well be 2 blocks. Which was the distance between us in the city. Needless to say, I’m so happy to still be so close by to them.
I whipped up this Baked Orzo with Eggplant dish before heading over since my sister mentioned my mom saw it on the fabulous Smitten Kitchen’s website and liked the sound of it. We decided to make a sort of Mediterranean-inspired meal and actually cooking together was half of the fun of the evening. Like it always is. That’s just what it means to be in my family.
BAKED ORZO WITH EGGPLANT RECIPE
This baked orzo with eggplant dish is technically an entree, but it also makes a wonderful side dish. The first time I made it for my mom’s birthday party, we enjoyed it as a side dish along with hake and artichokes. If you eat it as a side dish, chances are you’ll have a glorious amount of leftovers!
To start, you’ll need to dice your eggplant and sprinkle it generously with salt and let sit in a colander for about 30 minutes. This is to get rid of the excess moisture in the eggplant. You can continue on with the rest of the recipe while waiting (the chopping will keep you busy!).
So. much. chopping. But once 30 minutes has gone by, rinse your eggplant and pat it dry.
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees now if you’re planning to bake this right away. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. This is the first time I got to use my All-Clad 13-Inch Skillet(affiliate link) and I’m in absolute love! It was a serious dream. Add the olive oil and once oil is shimmering, you can add the eggplant, which you’ll fry for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove eggplant from pan with slotted spoon to paper towel lined plate and add carrots and celery to skillet to cook for about 3 minutes. If you find yourself needing a little more oil, add it here. I did.
Now throw in garlic and onion and cook for another 5 minutes and stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.
Take the skillet off the heat and toss in the oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, tomatoes, eggplant, lemon zest, and some salt and pepper. Also, pour in the vegetable stock. Stir well.
Put mixture in an 8×11 baking dish, cover in foil, and put it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, 20 with the foil covering the dish and 20 without.
The first time I made this, I ended up popping my dish in the fridge and baking it later when I got to my sister’s. I just had to add about 5-10 minutes to the baking time. Before I even put it in the oven, I was in love with all those gorgeous colors.
But baking made the orzo nice and crispy so there was a little bit to this dish! It also made the mozzarella cheese a bit gooey and melded all those delicious flavors together.
I don’t cook with eggplant nearly enough so I was glad to have a specific recipe to make and not just boring old eggplant parmesan (which, to be honest, is not boring at all, but just… not very unique).
Whether you’re vegetarian or just like to load up on vegetables from time to time, this is baked orzo with eggplant recipe is perfect. I actually kind of think sausage would go well in it, too. Maybe chicken sausage? You could even toss in tofu. That would make it even more of a meal!
Not to say it isn’t just lovely as is. Because it is.
One of my favorite things about this dish? It’s the kind of dish you make on a Sunday evening and then have leftovers with all week long. And they’re the kind of leftovers you can easily pop in a Tupperware and bring to work. Also the kind that will make your co-workers quite jealous.
So, what did we serve with the baked orzo with eggplant at my mom’s birthday? My sister and I made a Grilled Mediterranean Hake. Hake is a white fish kind of like haddock. The adventure of the evening is that we had our first go with fresh artichokes. We started to get a little bit nervous when we realized how we needed to prepare them and neither of us had done it before. But cooking new things with my sister is the best; we have so much fun together.
And obviously my whole family has fun eating together!
Happy new home to Beth and Adam! Their house is absolutely beautiful and you know Chris and I will be over lots and lots in the coming days. Hopefully they’ll still want to come to our place for a Dateline evening now and then!
Of course, we ended the evening with a cake. Another fabulous recipe from Smitten Kitchen that Beth made. Happy Birthday, Mama! I know I say she’s the best mom all the time, but she really is. Don’t be jealous 🙂
I’m so lucky to have such an amazing family. There’s nothing I enjoy more than spending a day cooking and chatting with them. In our super busy lives, birthdays are a nice excuse to get together for some quality time. And now, let’s do this Thursday and Friday. We’ve got two days to get through and then it’s off to celebrate Katie’s bachelorette party!
Do you cook with your family?
Baked Orzo with Eggplant Recipe
- 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/4 lb.)
- 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 8 oz. orzo
- 1 tsp tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
- 2 Tbsp lemon zest
- 4 oz. firm mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 3 medium tomatoes, diced
- Salt and pepper
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- Dice eggplant and sprinkle it generously with salt. Let sit in a colander for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, rinse eggplant and pat it dry.
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1/4 C olive oil and once oil is shimmering, add eggplant. Fry the eggplant for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove eggplant from pan with slotted spoon to paper towel lined plate.
- Add carrots and celery to skillet and cook for about 3 minutes. If you find yourself needing a little more oil, add it here.
- Add in garlic and onion and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in orzo and tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.
- Take the skillet off the heat and add in oregano, lemon zest, mozzarella, parmesan, tomatoes, eggplant, lemon zest, and some salt and pepper. Pour in the vegetable stock and stir well.
- Put mixture in an 8×11 baking dish, cover in foil, and put it in the oven at for about 40 minutes, 20 minutes with the foil covering the dish and 20 minutes with the foil removed.
- Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
- You can prep this dish the night before, cover it, and keep it in the fridge overnight. You may need to add 5-10 minutes onto the bake time.