Grilled Eggplant and Mozzarella Hero with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Basil Pesto | Midwest Living

Grilled Eggplant and Mozzarella Hero with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Basil Pesto

Grilled Eggplant and Mozzarella Hero with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Basil Pesto

Login to rate this recipe.
  • Makes: 6 servings
  • Yield: 6 sandwiches
  • Hands On 45 mins
  • Total Time 1 hr

Login to save this recipe

This scrumptious mess of a sandwich is every bit as satisfying as a classic Italian sub--and if you prepare the tomato sauce and pesto in advance (or use purchased pesto), the sandwiches come together super fast. The recipe comes from Cara Mangini, of Little Eater in Columbus, Ohio.


  • 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, seeded
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 medium eggplants (about 1 pound each), cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 4-inch to 6-inch ciabatta rolls or other Italian-style sandwich rolls, split
  • 6 tablespoons Basil Pesto, purchased or homemade (recipe follows)*
  • 3 cups mizuna** or arugula
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced


  1. For tomato sauce: In a food processor or blender, combine the tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the oil, the garlic, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the sea salt and the crushed red pepper. Process or blend until smooth.
  2. Transfer tomato mixture to a saucepan. Bring to boiling, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 35 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in 3/4 cup chopped basil and the Parmesan. Remove from heat; set aside.
  3. For eggplant: Brush the eggplant slices with the remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil and season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and the black pepper.
  4. Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Arrange eggplant on a well-oiled grill rack, cover the grill and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until eggplant is just tender, turning once. Remove from grill. If desired, grill the rolls, cut sides down, for 1 to 2 minutes or until toasted. (Eggplant can also be roasted on a sheet pan in a 400 degrees oven for about 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through cooking.)
  5. To assemble sandwiches: Spread 1 tablespoon Basil Pesto on the roll bottoms. Top with some mizuna, eggplant, a bit of tomato sauce, the mozzarella and more mizuna. Spread additional tomato sauce on roll tops before topping sandwiches. Cut in half to serve.


  • *Basil Pesto Fill a small bowl halfway with ice water; set aside. Plunge 3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves into a saucepan of simmering water. Using tongs, immediately transfer basil to ice bath, then to towels; pat dry. (This step helps basil retain its bright color.) In a food processor, combine the basil, 1/3 cup toasted walnuts or pine nuts, 1 clove garlic, 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper. Pulse until finely chopped, scraping sides as needed. With motor running, slowly add 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Process until smooth. Add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Process briefly. (You can add up to 1/4 cup more olive oil to reach desired consistency.) Chill, covered, up to 3 days, or freeze up to 6 months.


  • **Shopping Tip Mizuna is a mild, slightly peppery Asian green with serrated edges. Cara Mangini likes its frilly look and spicy flavor, but arugula is a great substitute.

Nutrition Facts

(Grilled Eggplant and Mozzarella Hero with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Basil Pesto)

Servings Per Recipe 6, iron (mg) 4, Trans fatty acid (g) 0, Cobalamin (Vit. B12) (µg) 0, sodium (mg) 989, Potassium (mg) 807, calcium (mg) 355, sat. fat (g) 9, Riboflavin (mg) 0, carb. (g) 58, Niacin (mg) 2, Monounsaturated fat (g) 17, Pyridoxine (Vit. B6) (mg) 0, Polyunsaturated fat (g) 3, Folate (µg) 76, pro. (g) 19, cal. (kcal) 599, vit. A (IU) 2528, Fat, total (g) 34, vit. C (mg) 46, chol. (mg) 36, Thiamin (mg) 0, fiber (g) 8, sugar (g) 12

Add Your Comment