Spaghetti Taormina

3:00 pm on 17 November 2023

Serves 4-6

Hailing from Taormina in Sicily, this pasta dish shows the Sicilian's inventiveness with eggplant, their most prized vegetable. Choose long eggplants rather than squat ones.

Spaghetti Taormina collage

Spaghetti Taormina collage Photo: Julie Biuso


Tomato sauce

  • 60ml (4 Tbsp) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 x 400g cans Italian cherry tomatoes, or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp tomato concentrate (optional)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • 2 large eggplants (aubergines), about 250-300g each
  • Olive oil
  • Flaky sea salt
  • 1½ cups homemade or ready-prepared tomato sauce (see above)
  • 1 small clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped basil, plus ¼ cup small leaves
  • 200g spaghetti or spaghettini
  • Salt
  • 300g fresh bocconcini mozzarella cheese, drained and thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving


1 Make the sauce first. Put the extra virgin olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan, set it over a medium heat and drop in the garlic. Sauté the garlic until it turns a pale biscuit colour. Carefully tip in the tomatoes. If using cherry tomatoes and the liquid is nice and thick, you won't need tomato concentrate, otherwise, stir it in. Add salt and black pepper. Rinse the tomato cans with a little water (a frugal Italian trick, making sure nothing is wasted!), using about ½ cup water in total, and add the water to the pan of sauce.

2 Bring the sauce to the boil, lower the heat, and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes, or until the sauce is pulpy.

3 Preheat oven to 220°. Cut eggplants lengthwise into 1 cm (the old ½") thick slices. Brush with oil and put them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until they turn a rich golden colour, turning once. Season with a little sea salt and stack as they done, so they soften with their own steam.

4 In a bowl mix together three-quarters of a cup of tomato sauce, the garlic, black pepper and chopped basil.

5 Cook pasta in plenty of gently boiling, well-salted water until it is nearly al dente. Drain well and toss with sauce. Cool.

6 Assemble eggplant rolls by wrapping a small amount of spaghetti in each slice of eggplant. Put rolls seam-side down in a shallow, lightly oiled baking dish and scatter with basil leaves. Spread remaining sauce over the top. Cover with mozzarella and sprinkle with parmesan. Alternatively, put several slices of mozzarella on each slice of eggplant, then roll with spaghetti (use all the sauce) and sprinkle over parmesan.
*Serve any spaghetti that's not used in the eggplant rolls on the side.

7 The eggplant rolls can be prepared 2-3 hours ahead to this point; cover and keep cool (don't refrigerate), until you are ready to finish them off. Cook under a hot grill until the cheese melts and turns lightly golden. Serve immediately.


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