Penne with Almond Pesto and Eggplant

Penne with Almond Pesto & Eggplant |

Another month gone by and another Secret Recipe Club reveal day for Group C!

I always get excited when I get the email telling me whose blog I’ll be assigned to and then usually it’s followed by a good hour of falling down the rabbit hole, clicking on recipe after recipe I want to make.

This month was no exception. My assigned blog, Manu’s Menu, is an amazing resource of Italian recipes for the home cook from all different regions of Italy (not to mention Manuela cooks many things besides Italian cuisine – hello, Double Chocolate Whole Wheat Banana Bread!)

This was a match made in heaven being I’m part Italian. My grandfather’s parents are from Abruzzi. My sister lived in Florence and Rome for four years and I visited as much as I could. My honeymoon was a magical trip to Sicily and the Amalfi Coast.

So, it’s not shocking that Italian food is my comfort food, my go-to food, what I’m eating most of the week. So, it was truly hard it was to decide what to make from Manuela’s comprehensive recipe archives.

Now, Manuela currently lives in Australia but certainly is keeping her hometown roots alive and well with her delightful blog. I decided to make something from Sicily because that’s where she is from originally and the regional cuisine from this island is AMAZING.

Penne with Almond Pesto & Eggplant |

Fresh seafood, olives, lemons, blood oranges, peppers, eggplant, raisins, pistachios, even couscous are staples because throughout history, Sicily was occupied by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs – a lot of different cultures that all brought their culinary influences to the island which makes the food so unique and SO DARN GOOD. One of my favorite dishes from the whole trip was pasta alla norma, which features eggplant, tomatoes, basil and ricotta salata cheese. Swoon.

In the end, I choose Manu’s Busiati with Pesto Trapanese and Fried Eggplant because I had eggplant on hand and it’s a traditional recipe from Trapani in western Sicily. Trapanese pesto features lots of garlic, basil, tomatoes and almonds instead of pine nuts. I skipped the homemade pasta step but will definitely be revisiting when I have more time.

Penne with Almond Pesto & Eggplant |


Penne with Almond Pesto & Eggplant – The Secret Recipe Club

  • Yield: 6 - 8 servings 1x



For pesto:

  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon almonds
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil
  • 20 grape tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons grated aged cheese like Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano

For eggplant:

  • 1 large eggplant, cubed or sliced into 1/2-inch thickness
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the pasta:

  • 1 pound cooked penne pasta (I use a mix of regular and whole wheat – DeCecco brand)


  1. In a blender or using an immersion mixture, puree garlic, almonds and salt into a paste. Add basil, tomatoes and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Hand mix in cheese. Set aside.
  2. To make the eggplant, soaked the cut up eggplant in cold water with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let soak for 30 minutes and then drain.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet and add half of the eggplant. Saute for 8-10 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil and cook the rest of the eggplant.
  4. To serve, toss penne with pesto and eggplant. Garnish with basil leaves, if desired and serve with extra grated Pecorino or Parmigiano cheese.


Adapted from Manu’s Menu recipe: Busiati with Pesto Trapanese and Fried Eggplant

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Penne with Almond Pesto & Eggplant |


We’re Serena & Deanna, two dietitians who love food as much as you do!  

We're also moms and business owners who share our family recipes, healthy kitchen hacks and nutrition adventures while keeping it real in the kitchen with you.

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