One of my favorite resources for quick, weeknight meals is Saveur Magazine’s weekly email of Simple Weeknight Meals. Sourced from previously published recipes, they often call for ingredients that you probably have on hand. Today’s recipe, inspired by traditional pasta alla norma, is a great example. I made a couple of modifications to suit our taste. You could easily omit the sausage to make a hearty, vegetarian pasta dish.
norma Laura, inspired by Saveur Magazine, Oct. 10, 2013, Rigatoni with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Spicy Sausage
For the pasta
1 medium eggplant, cut into ¾″ cubes
5 tbsp. olive oil
12 cremeni mushrooms, sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground spicy Italian sausage, we like Isernio’s Italian Chicken Sausage
1 (28-oz.) can whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, undrained and crushed by hand
16 fresh basil leaves, torn by hand
8 oz. rigatoni
2 – 4 oz. Pecorino Romano or parmesan, grated
Heat oven to 500°. (Yes that is correct.) Put eggplant and mushrooms into baking dish and drizzle with 2 tbsp. oil. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper. Bake, turning occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Turn oven down to 325′.
Roasting the eggplant and mushrooms at this high temperature brings out a wonderful rich, smoky flavor.
Heat remaining oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add chile flakes and garlic and cook, stirring, until garlic softens, about 3 minutes. Add sausage and cook, using a wooden spoon to break up into small pieces until browned, 16–18 minutes
Add tomatoes and half the basil, season with salt, and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until just al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain pasta and transfer to tomato sauce. Stir in reserved eggplant and mushrooms and toss to combine. Stir in remaining basil and season with salt.
Transfer the mixture to the baking dish you roasted the eggplant and mushrooms in. Top with grated cheese. Bake at 325′ for about 15 minutes. Serve with a tossed green salad and a big bold Chianti.
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