So when Ina Garten featured this pasta alla melenzana (eggplant pasta) during one of our Sunday morning Food Network sessions, it was instantly clear we'd be making it in the near future. Combining eggplant, sausage, tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, and pasta into one glorious dish... how could we hope to avoid that temptation?!
A few days later we placed our FreshDirect order for our ingredients and the next day we went to work creating this meal. We made a few adaptations from the recipe as it was shown on TV, and we think it was for the better, since it made the process much simpler and still just as tasty. Read on to learn how we did it and to make it yourself at home tonight!
Making the Dish
What You'll Need
1/2 lb rigatoni
1 large eggplant
1/2 cup mozzarella
2 links Italian sausage
1 bunch fresh basil
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 small vidalia onion
6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
Start off by prepping your eggplant. Slice off the top and bottom and then quarter it and slice it, so that you have little cubes of eggplant no larger than an inch or so wide. Place them into a bowl of salted water and let them sit for about 30 minutes, and then pat dry when completed.
Chop up a sweet onion into a dice and drop it with the eggplant into a large sauce pan with a quarter cup of olive oil. Throw in a touch more salt and cook at high heat until the eggplant caramelizes nicely and the onions have softened.
|Cooking the eggplant|
While these are cooking, grab two links of italian sausage and remove from the casing. Throw this into the pot as well and break it up while it's cooking. Additionally, take 6 - 8 garlic cloves and slice them vertically in half. Drop the halved cloves into the eggplant mix and let cook for a few minutes. These will soften over the course of the cooking and add a tremendous flavor throughout the dish.
|Cooking the eggplant with sausage and garlic cloves.|
As the sausage is browning, clean off some basil and remove the whole leaves from the stem. Add in about a cup of the leaves, whole, directly to the mix.
|Adding in the basil...|
They'll start to wilt as you mix them around. After they've wilted, add in about two cups of crushed tomatoes right into the mixture and stir around, then bring to a boil.
|And the tomato sauce...|
Let this simmer gently as you cook your pasta. We chose rigatoni. Cook it to a minute shy of the package directions and then remove and drain. Throw these into a bowl. Slice up about a cup's worth of store bought part skim mozzarella into small cubes and add these to the bowl with the cooked pasta.
|Tossing the mozzarella cubes into the pasta|
Pour in some of the sauce on top of everything, and toss gently to coat. The heat from the pasta and the sauce will start to melt the mozzarella and make the whole mixture very creamy and gooey. Continue to toss until the mozzarella has melted completely and diffused throughout the mix.
|Tossing everything together gently|
Finally, serve in a bowl and top with grated pecorino cheese!
|And don't forget the wine!|
Hats off to Ina Garten for this dish. What a wonderful combination of flavors and textures! Everything works together wonderfully, with the large soft pieces of garlic and the sweet leaves of basil complementing the savory sausage and creamy mozzarella. We both went back for seconds pretty quickly. Unfortunately we didn't make enough for thirds... but we'll be making this again soon.
What's the best dish you heard about on Food Network? Let us know in the comments!