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Eggplant Pesto

Frankie Celenza

Take pesto to the next level by making this version from Udine, Italy using smoky, roasted eggplant.

Eggplant Pesto


  • 1 eggplant

  • 1 clove garlic, chopped

  • 1 bunch basil

  • 1 bunch parsley

  • Salt

  • Walnuts (pine nuts or cashews work too)

  • Extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to broil with a rack set in the middle. (If you don't have a broiler, just turn oven on as high as it will go.)

  2. Cut the eggplant in half the long way and place halves skin side up on the baking sheet. Place in broiler until skin is browned, even a little burned.

  3. Once cooked, let cool then use a spoon to scoop out the meat of the eggplant. Discard the skin.

  4. In a food processor, add the scooped out eggplant, garlic, basil, parsley and nuts. Blend for a few seconds, then stream in olive oil and continue to blend until it forms a paste.

  5. Serve with focaccia bread, on pasta or on top of a caprese salad.

Eggplant Pesto




Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox

Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox


- This is a pesto from a city called Udine, and it has an eggplant that you set on fire in it. It's really delicious. We're gonna make it right now. This is a plant of egg, or an eggplant, or as the British call it, aubergine, or as the Italians call it, melanzana. It's really difficult to cook well unless you do it this way. This is the way we're gonna do it. You can't mess this up. Cut it in half the long way. On a pan, skin side up, under the broiler. Let's go. Look at that, look at that. All right, really, really simple. Check this out. Fork and spoon, just stick your fork right there and literally go like this. Look at that, look at that. Transfer! Boom, gotta love it. So, when these go in the oven, you can set them on fire and you'll get this smokey, delicious meaty taste and then the part that was on fire, which is the skin, goes in the garbage. Okay, we've got a clove of garlic. We can choo-choo train that. Whoo-hoo! Goes right in. Here's some basil. You can use any herbs you have. Parmigiano cheese, no problem. Cheddar cheese? Absolutely not. Don't do it, don't do it. Mozzarella? If you want that, that's fine. My pronunciation, lots has been changing over the years. This one time, I went to Burger King. My brother got up to the counter and he was like, five years old and he's like, "I'll have the cheeseburger with the mozzarella." And the lady goes, "We don't have mozzarella here." It was adorable. This is parsley. So, which is really great about this kind of a pesto, which is a lot like a baba ganoush, is you can go much lower in your oil quantity and you can go much lower in your herb quantity because the eggplant is gonna be 20 to 35% of the whole thing. A little bit of salt. Some nuts, these are walnuts. Works with cashews, works with pine nuts. Not so much peanuts. Pistachio might be interesting if you're into that kind of thing. Okay, so it starts to happen a little bit and now you've got to come in with raw olive oil. A lot of it. So, you can see it's a paste. You can see it holds its shape. It's green. It's got a smokey smell. It's really delicious. I'd go with a little more salt, a tiny bit more olive oil. I actually like this better than pesto proper and mixing it with pasta is delicious. Dipping it into bread is delicious. Having it out as something to spread onto anything that you've made is delicious. It takes so little time to make. People probably wouldn't know that there's eggplant in there but they'll be like, "What is that deep forest smokey thing in there?" The answer, of course, is eggplant. Lemon zest, no problemo. Red pepper flakes? Go for it. You could pull out some flatbread. I'm gonna do that right now, and eat it that way. So, you got the smokey burnt eggplant, the herbaceous basil. The nuts give it some body. The raw garlic gives it some body as well. If this were a band, it would be a full band that had woodwinds and stringed instruments and electric. It would be like Earth, Wind And Fire. It's basically inspired by my Aunt Vincenza from Udine. Shout out, thank you. How you doin'? This is so good. You need to try it.