Anelletti Pasta Eggplant Boats.

Baked Sicilian Anelletti Pasta in Eggplant Boats.

These anelletti pasta eggplant boats are a fabulous Italian version of stuffed eggplant! Full of typical Sicilian flavours, they are seriously yummy and  look great. Your guests will love them!

anelletti pasta eggplant boats

Eggplants, aubergines or brinjal.

Eggplants, also called aubergines or brinjal, are a very popular vegetable (actually they are classified as berries!) in many cuisines, especially Mediterranean, Asian and Middle Eastern. Here in Italy, eggplants are a widely-used ingredient in the Southern regions, particularly Sicily.

anelletti pasta eggplant boats

Did you know that the name ‘eggplant’ was actually coined in 18th century? Originally, it referred to white eggplants which, obviously, looked a bit like eggs!

ingredients for anelletti pasta eggplant boats

However, it was the Arabs who introduced eggplants to Sicily in the Middle Ages and then, I guess, their cultivation spread to other parts of Southern Italy.  Well known Southern Italian recipes for eggplant include parmigiana (melanzane alla parmigiana) from Naples and caponata and pasta alla Norma from Sicily. Another recipe I like is stuffed eggplant boats from Puglia.

eggplants cut in half and flesh removed

However, Italians prepare eggplants in many different ways and these anelletti pasta eggplant boats is one of my favourites! In Italian, these are called ‘barchette di melanzane ripene di anelletti’.

pieces of eggplant in frying pan

The pasta.

Anelletti or anelli is a typical Sicilian pasta most often used in baked pasta recipes like anelletti timballo, a kind of pasta cake from Palermo. These small rings of dried pasta are actually the inspiration for spaghettiOs! But, of course they come from Italy. I’d love to know how Campbells discovered them!

tomato and eggplant sauce in frying pan with packet of pasta nearby

The pasta I used for these anelletti pasta eggplant boats was made by Garofalo, one of my favourite producers of pasta di Gragnano. In my opinion, dried pasta from the town of Gragnano near Naples is one of the best in Italy.

tomato and eggplant sauce with pieces of primo sale cheese in frying pan

In fact, for pasta makers to label their product ‘pasta di Gragnano’, the pasta has to be produced in a legally defined area in and around the Bay of Naples. It must also be made using Italian durum wheat flour and the calcium poor water of the Monti Lattari. The dough is extruded through bronze dies and dried at low temperatures in the mountain air. The result? Great pasta! So, look out for it! There’s more than one producer.

pasta added to tomato and eggplant sauce in frying pan

Making these anelletti eggplant boats.

These anelletti pasta eggplant boats are pretty easy to make. The sauce is mostly the inside of the eggplants and tomatoes. The eggplant shells need to be boiled for 5-10 minutes first and then you just fill them with some pasta and sauce and cheese. I used a primo sale cheese in the sauce. I then sprinkled the eggplant boats with parmigiana and breadcrumbs before baking.

eggplant boats filled with pasta and sauce in oven dish

The cheese.

Primo Sale is an Italian sheep’s milk cheese from Sicily and Sardinia. The name itself literally means ‘first salt’. It describes the early stages of maturation. In Sicily, when the cheese is first taken out of the mould and before being salted, they call it ‘Tuma’. After the first salting, it is called ‘primo sale’. Because this cheese is young, it has a bright white colour and slightly salty milky flavor.

(If you can’t find ‘primo sale’ cheese you can also use ricotta salata or feta for this anelletti pasta eggplant boats recipe.)

baked anelletti eggplant boats in oven dish

Preparing the eggplant.

Eggplants have a tendency to start to turn brown once the flesh is exposed to the air. Therefore, it’s best to have a pot of water on the boil and some olive oil ready to heat in a skillet or deep frying pan before preparing them.  You can then start cooking the flesh and boiling the shells pretty quickly.

Alternatively, you can soak the eggplant flesh and shells in a bowl of water with a couple of tablespoons of salt until you are ready to use them. Then rinse well and pat the flesh dry before frying. This also helps to prevent it absorbing a lot of oil when frying it. However, I didn’t do this for these anelletti pasta eggplant boats.

baked anelletti pasta eggplant boats

Serve these eggplant boats as a starter or main course.

Here in Italy, pasta is often served as a first course (primo), rather than a main course. Consequently, one of these eggplant boats makes a perfect starter. For a main course, I would suggest two per person. The ingredients in this recipe are for 4 anelletti pasta eggplant boats. Double the quantities if you want to make 4 main courses.

pasta eggplant boat ready to serve

If you do try this recipe, I’d love to hear what you think. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.

Your feedback means a lot to me!

Buon appetito!

Other eggplant pasta recipes on The Pasta Project.

  1. Rigatoni alla Norma
  2. Pasta alla parmigiana
  3. Mafaldine/reginette with eggplant, swordfish and mint
  4. Orecchiette with Nduja and eggplant
  5. Lasagna alla Norma

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5 from 14 votes
anelletti pasta eggplant boats
Anelletti Pasta Eggplant Boats
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
45 mins
Total Time
1 hr

These delicious Italian pasta stuffed eggplant boats are not only easy to make and really delicious, but your guests will love this unusual way to serve pasta.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian, Southern Italian
Keyword: anelletti, baked pasta recipe, eggplant boats, eggplants, Italian recipe, pasta bake, pasta stuffed eggplants
Servings: 4
Author: Jacqueline De Bono
  • 180 g anelletti pasta (6.5oz)
  • 2 eggplants (large)
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes (you can omit these)
  • 300 g tomato passata (10oz) I used Mutti
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled
  • 150 g primo sale cheese (5oz) or ricotta salata or feta
  • Parmigiano or grana grated - as required
  • 1 tsp peperoncino flakes (optional)
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (you may need more as eggplant absorbs the oil)
  • salt for pasta and to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • basil leaves (for presentation)
  • breadcrumbs as required
  1. Put a pot of salted water on to boil (use this for the eggplant shells and pasta)

  2. Cut the eggplants in half after washing them. Then remove the flesh with a sharp knife and cut it into cubes/ small pieces. Peel the garlic and wash and cut the cherry tomatoes in half or quarters.

  3. Boil the eggplant shells for about 5 minutes. Remove them from the water and let them cool. Keep the water simmering.

  4. In a non-stick pan, fry the peeled garlic cloves in a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the eggplant flesh and cook until it starts to brown. Remove the garlic and add the cherry tomatoes and peperoncino flakes (if using). Once the tomatoes start to soften add the tomato passata. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

  5. Cook the pasta al dente in the same water as the eggplant shells. Follow the timing instructions on the packet. 

  6. Add the primo sale cheese to the eggplant and tomato sauce. 

  7. Drain the pasta and mix it well with the sauce. Fill the boats with pasta and sauce. Grease a baking dish (or line it with baking paper) and place the stuffed eggplants in it. Sprinkle them generously with grated parmigiana or grana and breadcrumbs.

  8. Sprinkle a little olive oil over the eggplant boats and cook in a preheated oven at 180 ° until golden brown (about 20-25 minutes).

  9. Serve immediately with some fresh basil leaves for decoration!

Recipe Notes

This recipe calls for Sicilian anelletti/anelli pasta rings. If those are not available, you could use other small pasta such as orzo or very small pasta shells.

If you have leftover pasta and sauce it will keep in the fridge for a day or two and you can bake it or heat in the microwave for another meal (we bake ours!)

Pin for Later

baked anelletti pasta eggplant boats

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  • Avatar
    June 9, 2020 1:41 am

    Can’t wait to try the recipe! If I make the recipe as the starter, what would you recommend for the main course?

    • Jacqui
      June 9, 2020 8:45 am

      Thanks for your comment Andrea. I’m sure you’ll love these pasta eggplant boats! Because this is quite a filling starter I would go for a lighter main course. I’d recommend serving these with a seafood main such as grilled fish with a salad. If you don’t like fish chicken would be good too!

  • Avatar
    January 23, 2020 5:05 am


  • Avatar
    Brian Jones
    May 6, 2019 8:58 am

    I am now on a mission to find those pasta rings, they are superb and can think of loads of recipes they would be fun to add in. Thank you 🙂

  • Avatar
    May 5, 2019 3:45 am

    Wow, this recipe looks fantastic. I love the rich flavour combinations. The pasta and eggplant combo sounds delicious. Well done!

    • Jacqui
      May 5, 2019 11:05 am

      Thank you Adrianne! Yes pasta and eggplant go wonderfully together. In fact, there are many Southern Italian recipes for this combo!

  • Avatar
    Beth Neels
    May 4, 2019 8:58 pm

    This is such a fun twist! I love the idea of stuffing the eggplant with pasta! An entire meal in a boat! Yummy!

    • Jacqui
      May 5, 2019 11:06 am

      Thanks Beth! This is quite an unusual stuffed eggplant recipe but it’s superlicious! I hope you’ll try it!

  • Trackback: Baked Eggplant Pasta Anelletti - Your Guardian Chef
  • Avatar
    May 4, 2019 3:22 pm

    Such a delicious recipe! So easy and tasty!

    • Jacqui
      May 5, 2019 11:06 am

      Grazie Kim! I agree, delicious, easy and tasty!

  • Avatar
    Amanda Wren-Grimwood
    May 4, 2019 3:16 pm

    Love aubergine but never had it with pasta. It looks amazing and I can’t wait to give it a go!

    • Jacqui
      May 5, 2019 11:08 am

      Thank you do much Amanada! Aubergine and pasta is a delicious combo, very popular in Southern Italy!I’m sure you’ll love these eggplant boats when you try them!

  • Avatar
    May 4, 2019 2:30 pm

    Wow! these eggplant boats are such an innovative idea. I have to try this recipe ASAP.

    • Jacqui
      May 5, 2019 11:09 am

      Thanks so much Meghna! Am sure you’ll fall in love with these eggplant boats when you make them!

  • Avatar
    May 4, 2019 1:29 pm

    Looks sooooo delicious! Reminds me of eggplant parmesan – super yummy. Can’t wait to try this recipe soon ♥

    • Jacqui
      May 5, 2019 11:10 am

      Thank you Natalie! Yes these are similar to eggplant parmigiana! More or less the same ingredients and flavours!

  • Avatar
    May 4, 2019 12:03 pm

    I love the sound of these eggplant pasta boats! Such a clever idea, I’ll have to try this.

    • Jacqui
      May 5, 2019 11:11 am

      Grazie mille Diana! These eggplant boats are def worth making. I’m sure you’ll love them!

  • Avatar
    May 3, 2019 10:30 pm

    What a creative way to make eggplant! Looks delicious! And I love that you always have some food related Italian history for us! lol…. Campbells stole the pasta rings!

    • Jacqui
      May 5, 2019 11:15 am

      Thank you Susan. Happy you like the bits of history I include! I love recipes that have a story behind them!

  • Avatar
    May 3, 2019 4:48 pm

    I love stuffed eggplant, but have never thought to stuff it with pasta! Such a fun idea… I can never get enough eggplant so am always on the lookout for new recipes 🙂

    • Jacqui
      May 5, 2019 12:12 pm

      Thanks Sues! I loved stuffed eggplant too, not only with pasta! But this is def worth making, so yummy!

  • Avatar
    May 3, 2019 4:03 pm

    I am always on the lookout for new ways to use eggplant. Thanks for the tips!

    • Jacqui
      May 5, 2019 12:13 pm

      Thank you Deanne! Glad you like this eggplant and pasta recipe!

  • Avatar
    May 3, 2019 3:37 pm

    Wait what? An eggplant is a berry? I have never heard that before. Maybe that’s why they are one of my favorite vegetables. Thanks for the info!

    • Jacqui
      May 5, 2019 12:14 pm

      Yes! I didn’t know that until recently Emily! Love surprising food facts!

  • Avatar
    Nicolas Hortense
    May 3, 2019 3:21 pm

    I have never seen pasta shaped like that before!! And what an awesome way to serve it! (:

    • Jacqui
      May 5, 2019 12:15 pm

      Thanks so much Nicolas! This pasta is very typical in Sicily. It’s the perfect size to stuff eggplant with and great in other baked pasta dishes!

  • Avatar
    Heidy L. McCallum
    May 3, 2019 3:18 pm

    I just love coming on your blog to read the interesting tidbit of information on pasta and Italian recipes. However, now I am seriously craving eggplant and this looks like a perfect recipe to cure that craving!

    • Jacqui
      May 5, 2019 12:18 pm

      Grazie di cuore as the Italians say Heidy! I’m thrilled you like my blog! If you like eggplant this is such a good recipe! Hope you’ll try it!

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