I normally make a dish like this with Ricotta and Mozzarella. I tried this version and it was good, but I think that next time I would add more mozzarella and definitely more eggplant. What was nice about this recipe was that I prepared it the day before and came home and popped it into the oven. While it cooked, I made a salad and a vegetable side dish, and dinner was done!
- 2-large eggplant, cut into 1” square pieces
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 lb. rigatoni
- 1 cup red onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb Circle b Ranch Hot Italian Sausage
- 2 cups Marina’s Italian Tomato sauce plus more
- 1 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 8 oz of Mozzarella cut into large dice (I would increase this to 1#)
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- ¼ cup seasoned bread crumbs
- a few basil leaves for garnish, sliced (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 400. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl, toss the eggplant cubes with one tablespoon of the olive oil and salt & pepper to taste until eggplant is lightly coated. Spread the eggplant in a single layer across the prepared baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.
- While the eggplant cooks, fill a pot with water, salt it, and bring it to a boil. Cook the rigatoni al dente according to package directions and drain, reserving about 1/3 cup of the pasta water.
- While the water boils/rigatoni cooks, pour the remaining tablespoon of olive oil into a large skillet or sauté pan and bring to medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for a few minutes until onions are softened and almost translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes until garlic is fragrant. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up with a wooden or plastic spoon, until meat is cooked through. Stir in marinara sauce and reduce heat to low.
- When the eggplant is finished roasting, remove it from the oven and turn the oven temperature down to 375.
- When the rigatoni is finished and drained, add it to the sauce mixture and stir to coat. Add the roasted eggplant and the crushed red pepper and stir until combined. Remove from heat for about 10 minutes. Mixture will still be warm.
- Add the mozzarella cheese, ½ cup of the Parmesan, and the 1/3 cup reserved pasta water to the pasta mixture and stir until well combined. If you find the pasta is to dry add more Tomato Sauce. Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish and spread out evenly. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup Parmesan cheese and the bread crumbs over the top. Place the dish in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the crumbs on top start to turn golden and the cheese in the pasta is bubbling throughout. Top with sliced basil leaves and serve.