Okay friends, summer moment over. Back to fall. Big time.
I had a big hankering for pasta, and wanted something warm, filling, and comforting. I was inspired by a recipe I’d seen Tyler Florence make with fennel sausages and rigatoni, but I wanted to make the recipe a bit healthier. The result? A pasta full of delicious flavors that felt warm and cozy. Ohhh yeahhh…
Michael had never really eaten eggplant before. He’s not much for zucchini or summer squash (it’s a texture thing), so I was a little nervous about how he would like it. Keeping it cooked crisp-tender instead of completely soft really helped, and I think it was great to have it mixed in with sausages and pasta.
I was lucky enough to find some fantastic spicy Italian turkey sausages. They were lower in fat and calories, and were fabulous. I’d recommend turkey sausages if you can find them, but if not, feel free to go with pork sausages. By swapping pork sausages for turkey, decreasing the amount of pasta and cutting the cheese in half (there’s still PLENTY), I was able to make this recipe a bit more figure-friendly. If you want to kick things up even more, you get bonus points if you can find whole wheat pasta!
3/4lb spicy Italian sausage (preferably in casings, gluten free if necessary)
1 large eggplant, cut into 1” pieces
1 onion, cut into a medium dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28oz) can whole plum tomatoes
1 small bunch fresh basil, torn into medium pieces
12oz rigatoni or penne (gluten free, if necessary)
8oz fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
1/2c fresh parmesan (or more, to taste)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Set a large pot of water for the pasta over medium-high heat to bring to a boil.
In a large pan, brown sausages in olive oil and remove from pan (they will probably not be cooked all the way through. Don’t worry). In the same pan, cook eggplant in olive oil for 7-8 minutes or until crisp-tender, adding additional olive oil as necessary. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Remove eggplant and set aside.
Add onion to pan. Cook 3-4 minutes over medium heat or until tender and translucent. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more. Crush tomatoes gently with your hand or a potato masher and add them and their juices to the pan (you still want some larger pieces). Add basil leaves and bring to a simmer while you cook the pasta.
By this time, your pasta water should be boiling. Add a generous pinch of salt to the water and add rigatoni. Cook 6-7 minutes (pasta will not be cooked through–it will finish cooking in the oven).
Cut sausages into bite-sized pieces. Combine sausages, eggplant, sauce, and pasta. Toss to combine. Transfer to a 9×13″ pan. Top with mozzarella and parmesan.
Bake at 450 degrees about 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and golden.