We tend to eat a lot of sausages during our six months in Umbria every year as Umbria is famous for its pork products and they truly are delicious. We have our sausages made by the local butcher in Collepeppe who makes a big batch up for us each summer, half spicy and half mild. Though we have made our own sausages in past years, the sausages we have made for us by our butcher are great tasting and very reasonably priced, so it doesn’t seem worth the effort to make our own. It is also a bonus that he seasons them just the way that we like them.
Last summer for the first year, the eggplant in our garden really flourished. We aren’t sure why the eggplant grew so well last year when previous years we were lucky to harvest a handful of eggplants over the entire summer, but I was easily picking 4 to 6 eggplants a week. This sauce was created to make use of our abundant eggplant crop as well as the tasty sausages I had in the freezer and I have been making it often ever since. This is a hearty sauce, so for me, a bowl of this pasta is my main course. I also often make a double batch of this sauce and freeze half to enjoy it at a future date when I am rushed preparing dinner.
I prefer to peel my eggplant in this recipe as I prefer the eggplant to be tender and silky without pieces of skin getting in the way, but that is your choice. I usually use spicy Italian sausages in this recipe because my husband and I like a spicy sauce, but feel free to use mild Italian sausages if you are feeding children, or if you do not care for the extra heat. This sauce really works well on many pasta shapes, and my favorites are bucatini, spaghetti, stringozzi (Umbrian square shaped long pasta), penne or rigatoni. To top this pasta when serving I usually use freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, but Ricotta salata is also tasty, and Parmesan will work well also.
Ceramic Plate Courtesy of Cerasella Ceramics, Salerno, Italy
Deborah Mele 2014
- 1 Large Eggplant, Peeled & Cut Into 3/4 Inch Dice
- 2 Teaspoons Salt
- 3 Teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Medium Onion, Peeled & Diced
- 3 Spicy or Mild Italian Sausage, Meat Removed From Casings
- 3 Garlic Cloves, Minced.
- 1 (28 Ounce) Can Diced Tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 1/2 Teaspoon Hot Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
- 3/4 Pound Pasta of Choice (See Notes Above)
- Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan Cheese
- Toss the eggplant with the 2 teaspoons of salt and place in a colander.
- Let sit 20 minutes, then squeeze dry.
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat and add the onion and sausage meat.
- Cook, using two forks to break up the meat as it cooks until it is no longer pink.
- Add the eggplant, and continue to cook until the eggplant has softened, about 8 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook an additional minute or two.
- Add the tomatoes, paste, oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes if using and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer, then cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Add a small cup of water if sauce thickens too much).
- Stir in the parsley and basil.
- Taste, and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
- While the sauce is finishing cooking, cook the pasta in a large pot of lightly salted water until it is “al dente”, following manufacturers instructions.
- Drain, and return the pasta to the pot.
- Add a large scoop or two of sauce to the pasta and toss to coat.
- Serve the pasta in individual bowls with an additional spoonful or two of sauce on top.
- Pass the grated cheese at the table, and enjoy!