“Pesto” is a dirty word in our apartment.

A certain someone who apparently has the taste buds of a toddler has gotten it into his head that it tastes “too green” for him and so he’ll turn his nose up at pretty much any dish that incorporates it. No matter that the first meal I ever made for him contained pesto and he, in fact, went back for thirds. These days, if he even suspects it’s gone anywhere near his dinner, he’ll barely take two bites.


Given that pesto is pretty much a way of life for me during the summer this is a problem of epic proportions. (To put it lightly.)

So I’ve taken to hiding it in his food without telling him and then giggling when he takes a bite. (And likes it.)

Not only is this a foolproof plan (at least to date) but the sense of satisfaction and self-righteousness I get when he pretty much begs for leftovers the next day is unrivaled.


This eggplant manicotti is one such dish that he wouldn’t have touched with a ten foot pole had he known there was pesto mixed into it’s cheesy interior, but as it was he practically licked his plate clean and then stared at me as if Iย was the crazy one when I informed him, with admittedly overenthusiastic glee, what that green sauce was.

To his credit, this meal wasย delicious. The creamy pesto filling is the perfect blend of light herby flavor and creamy cheesy decadence, while the eggplant manicotti shells are substantive and hearty without being heavy the way that pasta can be. All in all, a perfect summer meal. So long as no one mentions the “p” word.


One year ago…White Balsamic Custard Tart with Fresh Berry Topping
Two years ago…Blueberry, Lime and Thyme Pound Cake Muffins, Swiss Chard, Potato and Sorrel Soup with Creme Fraiche, Thai Curried Zucchini Fritters with a Spicy Peanut Sauce
Three years ago…Homemade Linguine with Zucchini, Capers, Lemon, Pine Nuts and Herbs
Four years ago…Spicy Marinated Peanut Chicken

Eggplant Manicotti with Creamy Pesto Filling
This manicotti is made from eggplant instead of pasta, making this creamy delicious dinner that won't leave you feeling weighed down.
Yield: Serves 5
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup fresh parsley leaves
  • ½ cup spinach leaves
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • ¼ cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
  • 4 tbsp cream cheese
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 15 oz part-skim ricotta
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1½ lb eggplant, cut lengthwise into 20 slices
  • cooking spray
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (I used the 365 brand roasted red pepper sauce from Whole Foods)
  1. Combine ½ cup mozzarella, basil, parsley, spinach, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, cream cheese, salt, ricotta, and garlic in a food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Arrange half the eggplant slices (or as many will fit) in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with parchment paper. Broil for 5 minutes or until browned and very tender. Repeat with remaining eggplant.
  3. Preheat oven to 375.
  4. Spread 1 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish. Place the eggplant slices, browned sides down, on a smooth surface. Spoon about 2 tbsp of the pesto filling in the center of each slice. Roll up, starting at the short ends, and place the eggplant rolls, seam sides down, over the sauce. Repeat with remaining eggplant and pesto. If there is any pesto left over, pour it on top of the eggplant rolls. Pour 1 cup marinara sauce over the eggplant rolls. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella evenly over the top.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.
adapted from Cooking Light
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 4 manicotti rolls



You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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90 Responses to Eggplant Manicotti with Creamy Pesto Filling

  1. A life without pesto is a sad one in my opinion. You’re gonna have to change that guy. Pesto is one of my favorite things to make… ever. I would gladly eat it every day and put it on just about everything. This manicotti looks totally perfect too! Love that it just uses the eggplant instead of noodles! So cool!

  2. Ohhhh that boy of yours!! I always laugh thinking about you sitting there in absolute glee when he likes your “secret ingredients”, whatever they may be. I am alllll over this recipe, friend. LOVE this idea!!

  3. I hide stuff in food all of the time. I figure…what won’t hurt them, they’ll love! And they would LOVE this!

  4. This looks absolutely perfect. My mom makes something similar (minus the pesto) and we call it eggplant rollatini. Love the addition of pesto. We are big fans of the stuff… just made grilled pizzas with pesto over the weekend.

  5. Foodycat says:

    He really does have the tastebuds of a child! Mind you, we used to do the same thing to my father in law, who would swear he hated garlic but never knew when we put it into a dish.

  6. He doesn’t like pesto? Gasp! I can’t get enough of the stuff, and I also love eggplant, so this looks like heaven to me! I’m drooling here.

  7. this looks amazing! Never imagined eggplant with pesto but now I am inspired to try some.
    Thanks for the recipe ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Oh my goodness. Is it a bad thing that while reading this at 7:30 in the morning, I want a huge piece of this? I have had eggplant on my mind all weekend – perfect timing for this post!

  9. What is it with boys and pesto? Matt isn’t a huge fan either but I bet I could change his mind with this!

  10. A certain someone here doesn’t like pesto either, he says it tastes weird and I have tried different versions and not just one. boys… Your manicotti will be next and if he doesn’t like it then he is loosing out not me. =P

  11. heheheheeeee I love tricking people with food lol. It’s his own fault, pesto is delicious and you’re just trying to let him get out of his own way!

    This seriously looks SOOO amazing, I loooove it! YUM

  12. SallyBR says:

    This is simply awesome.

    I used to make eggplant “roll-ups” quite often, and for some reason forgot all about it.

    it’s been years. I gotta fix that

  13. Kim says:

    I love the idea of using eggplant instead of pasta for the manicotti. I also love how you trick the boy. The things we girls have to resort to sometimes.

  14. bellini says:

    Giggle…I really must try this dish. I have no aversion to pesto like “The Boy”. Such yummy goodness. I can’t wait for eggplant!!!!!

  15. Monica says:

    I’ve been daydreaming about pesto. This looks delicious!

  16. Sam says:

    I’m pretty sure you’ve read the stories on my blog about what my boyfriend eats–The.Boy sounds *much* better about eating foods that are different from what my five-year-old niece does than D is. He does, however, love pesto. Eggplant and ricotta, however, not so much. I guess I’ll have to make this and eat it all myself. Sad.

  17. I can’t imagine not liking pesto! I love the stuff. This dish reminds me of the eggplant “rollatini” in Veganomicon- I think I’ll have to combine that and your recipe for a vegan and pesto-ed up version ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Amy says:

    Oh wow. Who doesn’t like pesto??? And to be with you and not like it? Or squash. I can’t even imagine that *head explodes*

  19. That Girl says:

    Pesto is too green? Pesto is basically a conduit for cheese and garlic!

  20. Pesto is its own food group in my diet… I LOVE the stuff. This recipe looks like a fantastic way to use it (all that cheese… swoon!)

  21. Jessie says:

    Ah, the p-word – so dangerous. Peter used to be that way about olives, but after many sneaky dishes, he’s come around. Maybe by next summer the boy will love pesto in everything. I’m not surprised he enjoyed this eggplant manicotti – yum!

  22. Dixya says:

    pesto is the goddess of food that goes wit everything. And using eggplant instead of pasta and carb is just what i need today. thanks for the idea ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. I have to try this – I love anything with eggplant and this looks amazing! Not to mention the basil in the garden is ready for me.

  24. Gosh I wish I liked eggplant. It’s SO versatile. Love what you’ve done here… maybe a really beefy zucchini or squash could take its place?!

  25. I think people who claim to hate pesto have just never had good pesto. It’s impossible to hate!

    This dish is such a great idea. Although I replace pasta with veggies all the time, it never occurred to be to make manicotti with veggies. Love the way you think!

  26. Oh my gosh I must make this! Even though I just told myself I need to stop going to the grocery store for splurges in order to save money.

  27. Sorry one more comment and this one is real – when you say 1 1/2 lb eggplant, do you mean one 1/2 lb or 1 and 1/2 lb?

  28. My kind of mancotti. I love this idea. I can’t wait to try it!I try and hide eggplant on my husband the same way u try and hide pesto. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  29. Gwen says:

    I’m sorry, did you say creamy pesto?! Yowzah!! Must have ASAP!

  30. Haha, I’m pretty sure the Boy and Shane would get along very well. Shane wouldn’t touch pesto willingly either. Then again he wouldn’t get near eggplant either ๐Ÿ™‚ Regardless, I’m happy to eat enough for both of us, this sounds amazing!!

  31. Karen says:

    Nice to fool them every now and then ๐Ÿ˜‰

  32. Stacy says:

    I am a huge fan of pesto myself, Joanne, and normally have basil growing in abundance by summer time. This year I went away for a few weeks and it just died. I guess Dubai is too hot but that makes me sad. Your dish is gorgeous with its beautiful colors! I’ll have to break down and buy basil at the store because I need to make it!

  33. this looks and sounds amazing!! and i, too, would get so much happiness out of having him enjoy things he says he doesn’t like ๐Ÿ˜‰

  34. Abby says:

    I love your sneaky ways! haha You just combined 2 of my fave things ever…eggplant and pesto – yes I’m with you on Team Pesto… cannot wait to try this!

  35. Eileen says:

    Yes, pesto forever! I usually eat mine raw over pasta, but I’m excited by the idea of baking it into a big bubbling dish of cheese and eggplant goodness. ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. Beth says:

    This looks amazing – it’s on my To Make list!

  37. Ashley says:

    This looks wonderful. And I’m loving how you use ploys like people use with toddlers on the.boy haha!

  38. If the eggplant in my fridge is still good, I am SO doing this. I love alternative noodle ideas like this!

  39. That is so funny Joanne! This dish looks amazing – I want it for lunch!

  40. This looks delicious, Joanne! Glad you pulled off another delicious ruse on him ๐Ÿ™‚

  41. Too funny… at first I thought you were going to say he would learn about the ingredients by reading your blog post… but thank goodness you can teach him in real time that pesto isn’t so scary. ๐Ÿ™‚

  42. How can anybody not like pesto? It’s amazing and so is this manicotti.

  43. Creamy pesto filling sounds perfect for manicotti!

  44. Gloria Baker says:

    Really I love pesto Joanne and of course love eggplants!

  45. I love how you trick him, it makes me smile. I’ve had to do the same with my hubs…lol!! It is always satisfying when they like it AND want more! This dish does sound extremely good too…yum!

  46. Juliana says:

    Joanne, I love the way you prepared this eggplant…looks so good, love the color as well…much healthier than the pasta one ๐Ÿ™‚
    Have a great week ahead me dear!

  47. This looks fantastic, Joanne! The perfect veggie Italian comfort food. Scoop me up a plate!

  48. Guru Uru says:

    That pesto filling is so delicious, manicotti is such a wonderful recipe ๐Ÿ˜€


  49. Nessa says:

    I’ve got to make this soon!

  50. This looks super comforting and delicious. I make similar eggplant involtini or roll-ups and think the pesto idea is a great one!

  51. Totally love the filling on these. So creative!

  52. OohLookBel says:

    Mmm, ricotta and basil and spinach are such a delicious threesome. I’ve bookmarked this recipe for when basil is more abundant here. Can’t wait!

  53. We got TONS of basil in our CSA box today…I have a feeling it’s going to end up being pesto. If only I could get my bf to like cheese!

  54. Is this the 21st century version of ‘real men don’t eat quiche?’

  55. daphne says:

    looks like he could be a convert! I’m liking this dish as it is perfect for our wintery nights. My hubby loves pesto, I just have to get him to eat more eggplant!

  56. Natalie says:

    i made something similar but sans pesto…so now i have to go remake bc i can’t get that out of my head!

  57. G’day! HOW great does this sound and look, true!
    This IS on my list to do!
    Cheers! Joanne

  58. Pesto, marinara…this cheesy veggie treat has all my favourite ingredients, Joanne.

  59. I didn’t think there was a human out there who didn’t like pesto! This is a great recipe and I’m glad a certain someone is coming around!

  60. Tandy says:

    I totally get this as sometimes pesto is too green for me ๐Ÿ™‚

  61. tigerfish says:

    Cheese, pesto, marinara sauce – all flavor bombs! So this dish is explosively delicious!

  62. Kari says:

    I love your strategy for managing his food dislikes. Although, I wonder if he’ll catch on to the giggling? It sounds like you have lots of opportunities to be amused at how much he enjoys these ingredients he theoretically hates ๐Ÿ˜‰

  63. Lynn says:

    I’m always looking for eggplant recipes. This one looks divine and I LOVE pesto. ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad you are sneaking it in at home.

  64. Katerina says:

    Well I think you learned how to hide ingredients you don’t want anyone to find out in food haha! Next step is to have a child, you will become a master in this I am telling you. These eggplants look absolutely amazing!

  65. cquek says:

    This looks like perfect comfort food and I just love the photo of it all puffed up

  66. oh boy, i know my husband would love this. Eggplant is one of his favorite things in the world to eat ๐Ÿ™‚ What a great healthy veggie dish!!

  67. london bakes says:

    At least your boyfriend will eat eggplant, mine won’t touch the stuff and I think I’d struggle to disguise it from him which is a complete shame because this looks like my absolute perfect meal! Love pesto, love egg plant. So delicious.

  68. Sometimes we have to be sneaky. I can see why “The Boy” would gobble this up…it looks delicious.

  69. Oooooooh my gosh! What an amazing idea for a nutritious meal! Yummmmmm!

  70. P says:

    I’ve only ever had pesto sauce with pasta (with pine nuts sprinkled on top :D!) but this looks like an even more gourmet and delicious way to use (and disguise) pesto :)!

  71. I learned long ago that it’s best not to inform your loved ones what exactly they’re eating. It’s really for the best ๐Ÿ™‚ This looks awesome…i’m a fan of any dish that contains basil or pesto!!

  72. Claudia says:

    Looks so good, I think this would even convert the eggplant haters in my family, not that I would tell them what’s in it ahead of time.

  73. Christine says:

    I’m sorry, but life without pesto is not an option in my book…lol! This looks sooo delicious. It’s hysterical that you have to hide this element among other ingredients.

  74. Honey says:

    jeeeeez… this looks crazy yummy. initially i was like, omg did she fry it, but when i saw you baked/broiled it, i knew it was a winner. INSANE!
    looks amazing

  75. I love eggplant and this is such a creative way to make it. Looks outstanding Joanne!

  76. Audra says:

    You are so funny- it’s like trying to sneak veggies into a kid’s meals! I’m glad that he was able to get tricked into eating this because it looks just wonderful!

  77. Oh this looks amazing and I am getting ready to make a batch of fresh pesto!!

  78. grace says:

    i LOVE pesto, and i love mozz, pinenuts, and eggplant. this is precisely the kind of italian meal i prefer.

  79. Reeni Pisano says:

    I LOVE when that happens! This looks so comforting and freaking delicious all at the same time I’d be licking the plate clean too – without shame!

  80. Jeanette says:

    What a perfect summer recipe to use all the best fresh vegetables that are available this time of year. We always have pesto in our fridge in the summer – go to give this a try!

  81. I featured this one in my “What I Bookmarked This Week” post today – it looks so good!

  82. This sounds so good! I can’t get enough pesto these days!

  83. Kate says:

    Summer pesto is the best. I mourn it in the winter when basil is hard to find.

  84. […] View Recipe Ingredients & Preparation Instructions […]

  85. I have never heard of using eggplant like that and I am totally intrigued. We are not big eggplant people (husband never liked much and eldest was allergic as a toddler) but that is smothered in enough goodness I bet none of the naysayers would ever notice!

    The boy should eat his pesto and then thank you for it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  86. […] Adapted from Joanne Eats Well With Others, originally adapted from Cooking […]

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