October 17, 2017

Deliciously Ella’s Tomato & Eggplant Bake

Recipe: Ella Mills

Try this recipe for Tomato & Eggplant Bake from Deliciously Ella‘s new cookbook, Natural Feasts: 100+ Healthy, Plant-Based Recipes To Share And Enjoy With Friends And Family

This is one of my favorite recipes in the book; it’s really very special and I’d recommend you all trying it as soon as you can! The “cheesy” layer is the best part. It makes each bite so creamy and rich, warming and comforting… perfect for a cold evening with friends.


  • 2 large eggplants
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 zucchini
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, plus more to brush
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 3 red bell peppers, roughly chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 tbsp smoked paprika
  • Three 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • One 1-oz. jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (6 ounces drained weight), drained and chopped
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp chili akes
  • Scant 3⁄4 cup hazelnuts
  • Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1 oz. flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped

For The Cheesy Sauce

  • 7 oz. butternut squash (about one-third of a squash), peeled and roughly chopped
  • Generous 1 cup cashews, soaked in water for at least 4 hours, then drained
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lemon


Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
  2. Slice the eggplants lengthwise into slices roughly 1⁄4 inch thick, place on 2 baking sheets in a single layer, sprinkle liberally with salt and set aside to let water draw out. Slice the zucchini lengthwise into 1⁄4-inch slices too.
  3. Place a grill pan over high heat. Brush it with olive oil and start grilling the zucchini slices. Lay them on gently and leave them until you can see the grill lines coming through the top side. Set aside. Keep going until all the zucchini slices are done.
  4. Heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add the fennel, season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Add the peppers and garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add the paprika, stirring to coat. Now tip in the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, thyme and chili flakes. Let the tomato sauce simmer and reduce for at least 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, you can get on with the eggplants. Using paper towels, brush off the salt and water from the eggplant slices, and start grilling on the hot grill pan (make sure you have your exhaust fan on! It gets smoky but the flavor makes it worthwhile). Grill for about 1 minute each side, and set aside. Once the eggplants are all done, the tomato sauce should have reduced by one-third, look glossy and coat the back of a spoon nicely. If this is so, you can start assembling the bake. Check the sauce for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.
  6. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes, until they turn golden. Set aside to cool.
  7. Take a lasagne dish and put a layer of eggplant on the bottom, followed by a layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of zucchini. Keep layering until everything is used up, finishing with a layer of the tomato sauce.
  8. Cover with foil and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 30 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, make the cheesy sauce. Steam the squash for 15 minutes. Add to a high-powered blender with the remaining sauce ingredients and blend until totally smooth, seasoning very well.
  10. Remove the foil from the bake, pour over the sauce and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, chop the hazelnuts and mix in a bowl with the lemon zest and parsley.
  12. Remove the bake from the oven, sprinkle half of the herby nut mixture over the top and take to the table to serve. Put the rest of the hazelnut mixture in a bowl on the table so people can add extra to their plate should they want it.

TIP: Keep lemons after you have zested them to slice and use in drinks, such as in a big pitcher of water for the table.


Excerpted from Natural Feasts by Ella Mills. Text copyright © 2017 by Ella Mills.  Photography copyright © 2016 by Clare Winfield. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.