This pasta was the fortuitous answer to the question, “What should I do with this extra eggplant in the fridge?”
I was making one of my go-to recipes last week, and accidentally picked up more organic eggplant than I needed.
Since we just had loads of amazing pasta dishes in Italy, I’ve had pasta on the brain….
And guess what goes great w. pasta? Eggplant!
My favorite pasta dishes are the ones that have depths of flavor. They taste like they’ve been simmering for hours, but they don’t necessarily have to!
Long cooking times help meld the flavors together, creating a rich and cohesive sauce, but there are plenty of tricks to make quick-cooking sauces taste incredibly complex.
- Start by browning some meat. Then cook the rest of the sauce in the drippings/browned bits. Instant flavor boost, imparting a savory meaty flavor.
- Caramelize everything. Don’t ever underestimate the flavoring power of caramelized onions. And while you’re at it, caramelize any other veggies that brown nicely, like carrots or eggplant.
- Add a hit of acid. This brightens up the sauce & gives it a mysteriously fresh tang. I typically use a pour of wine (white wine for brightness, red wine for richness), or if I’m out, a splash of red wine vinegar.
- Stir in tomato paste. Let’s face it, canned tomatoes can be a little watery. By stirring in a generous amount of tomato paste, you get rich concentrated tomato flavor that adds sweetness and body to the sauce.
- Liberally use dried herbs. Dried herbs may seem less flavorful than fresh ones, but they can add an earthy herbaceous flavor to sauces that will be missed if you skimp on them. Dried herbs are the secret to memorable sauces & can save you from bland-town.
- Top it off with flavorful mix-ins. Finish the sauce with fresh herbs and cheese to brighten the sauce & add a rich umami flavor.
Follow these tips for a complex sauce in just 30 minutes.
Give it a try with the eggplant and sausage recipe. It has caramelized onions & eggplant, sweet Italian sausage, 3 types of tomato, dried herbs and spices, capers, white wine, parmesan, and fresh basil.
Pretty darn easy, and super duper delicious.
Pasta with Cheesy Eggplant & Sausage
- 1.5 lbs sweet Italian sausage (3 or 4 large)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 small onions, diced
- 4 cups eggplant cut into 1/2 inch dice (about 1 large)
- 1 head garlic cloves, peeled & minced
- 2 tablespoons drained capers
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 lb tubular pasta (I used casarecce, but penne or rigatoni or fusilli would work)
- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
- Use a knife to cut a slit lengthwise through the casing of each sausage. Peel off the casings and discard.
- Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a large nonstick skillet and set aside. Use your hands to rip off small (roughly 1/2 inch) pieces of sausage, and place them in the skillet, doing your best to evenly space them.
- Place the skillet on the stove top over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often with a spatula to break up the sausage pieces, until the sausage is nicely browned, about 10 minutes. When the sausage is done, use a spatula to move it from the pan to a large plate or bowl & set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium, then add the diced onions to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until softened and just starting to turn golden.
- Add the eggplant and cook for another 8-10 minutes, or until the eggplant is starting to caramelize and is softened.
- Add 1 more tablespoon of oil, the minced garlic, capers, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, and tomato paste to the pan. Stir to combine, and cook for about 1 minute, until the garlic and spices are fragrant.
- Add the white wine to the pan and cook for a minute or so until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Next, add the diced tomatoes with their juices, the tomato sauce, and the sausage back to the pan. Stir to combine, cover, and let simmer while you cook the pasta.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions, until al dente. When it's done cooking, drain the pasta & set aside.
- Turn off the heat on the pasta sauce and stir in the parmesan cheese and fresh basil. Place a portion of pasta in each of the serving bowls & top with sauce. Enjoy! Goes great with simple side salad and herbed garlic bread.