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Baked pasta is pure comfort food. From lasagna and mac n cheese to cannelloni, stuffed shells and spaghetti pie; it’s all good, hearty stick to your bones food. And such is the case for this recipe. I was at home working earlier in the day with my mind constantly wandering through recipe ideas, but not settling on anything. So I decided to go to the store to do my normal perusing of the aisles trying to figure out what to cook for dinner.
After meandering for what seemed like an hour with no luck, I made my way to the produce section hoping for some inspiration. My eyes quickly glanced over chiles, red and yellow peppers, green beans, broccoli and finally caught some wonderful eggplant. Hmm, I hadn’t cooked with eggplant in awhile. In fact, the last time was a vegetable curry which was quite some time ago. I grabbed a nice large one, a bunch basil and the gears started turning. A tasty baked pasta with eggplant seemed to fit the bill and I was off to find the rest of my ingredients.
I already had plenty of garlic and onion so I headed over to grab some pasta, canned tomatoes and cheese. While this would be good on it’s own, I really wanted some protein in it. I picked up a pound of fresh Italian sausage to round it out and headed home to get started. Enjoy!
I started by removing the casings from 1 pound of Italian sausage, broke them into chunks and cooked them with 2 tablespoons olive oil in wide fry pan over medium high heat for about 3 minutes just to brown the outside then removed them to a bowl. (Don’t overcook or they’ll dry out when baked later.)
I cut the eggplant into approximately 1 inch cubes and cooked them in 2 batches in the same pan with about a 1/4 cup olive oil until browned about 8 minutes then removed them to the bowl with the sausage.
In the same pan I added 2 tablespoons olive oil and cooked 1 diced onion, 5 chopped garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon cracked red pepper until softened about 3 minutes. I added 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs seasoning, 2 pinches of kosher salt, a 28 ounce can whole tomatoes and a 14 ounce can whole tomatoes that I broke into small chunks with my hands. I let this simmer until well thickened about 20 minutes.
This is what the sauce looked like after cooking down. I added a large handful of chopped basil then removed it from the heat. I dropped 1 pound of rigatoni in salted water and cooked for 7 minutes then drained and reserved about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
I combined the pasta, sausage, eggplant, sauce and reserved pasta water along with 8 ounces diced mozarella in the pot I cooked the pasta in then poured it into 9 x 13 pan. I topped it with the other 8 ounces diced mozzarella and 3/4 cup grated romano and baked it at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.
And this was the final result. The picture really doesn’t do it justice-this was sooo good. Enjoy!
- ½ cup olive oil divided
- 1 pound Italian sausage with casings removed and broken into bitesize chunks
- 1 eggplant cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 onion diced
- 5 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1½ teaspoons dried Italian herbs seasoning
- 1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes
- 1 14 ounce can whole tomatoes
- 2 large pinches kosher salt
- 1 large handfull basil roughly chopped
- 1 pound rigatoni
- ½ cup pasta water
- 1 pound mozzarella diced
- ¾ cup grated romano cheese
- Add 2 tablespoons olive oil in a wide fry pan over medium high heat. Add the sausage and cook for about 3 minutes until browned then remove to a bowl. Add ¼ cup olive oil to the pan and cook the eggplant until browned about 8 minutes then remove to the bowl with the sausage. (This may have to be done in batches).
- Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan over medium heat and cook the onion, garlic and cracked red pepper for about 3 minutes to soften. Add the Italian herb seasoning and both cans of tomatoes breaking them into small pieces with your hands as you add them. Cook for about 20 minutes until nice and thick.
- Cook the rigatoni in salted water for 7 minutes then drain reserving ½ cup of the pasta water. Return the pasta and pasta water to the pot. Add the sausage, eggplant and sauce along with 8 ounces of the mozzarella and stir to combine.
- Pour into a 9x13 pan and top with the other 8 ounces mozzarella and the romano. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes.