This pasta dish, loosely based on a sausage and eggplant ragù from Sicily, is ideal for summer because it uses in-season tomatoes and eggplant. In addition, the pasta is cooked directly in the sauce so there’s no need to heat up the kitchen with another large pot of boiling water. And it was hot as blazes the night we made this for dinner.
Hot Italian sausage adds a little spiciness, but I know many of my peeps out there in foodland can’t tolerate much “heat” so go ahead and use sweet sausage if that’s your preference. However, to be frank, it was just mildly spicy even with the hot version. In fact, we doubled the amount of meat to almost a pound (8 ounces seemed rather paltry). No need for us to remove casings because we bought it in bulk, which is a time-saver if your local grocery store sells it that way.
Don’t stir the tomatoes more than just once or twice after adding them to the pot. Uncovering to stir releases heat and slows the rate at which the tomatoes burst and release their juices. However, do make sure to stir regularly after the pasta is added to prevent the starchy noodles from sticking to the pot.
The sauce came out nice and creamy, and with the extra meat—OK, and a few more tomatoes—there was definitely plenty of leftovers.
Cavatappi with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes and Eggplant
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
- 2 Pints cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1 Small red onion, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 8 Oz. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 Qt. water
- 1 Lb. eggplant, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
- 1 Lb. cavatappi pasta; or campanelle or gemelli
- ¾ Tsp. grated nutmeg
- 1 Cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn if large
- Finely grated parmesan or pecorino romano, to serve
- In a large pot over medium-high, combine the oil, tomatoes, onion and 1½ teaspoons salt. Cover and cook, stirring only once or twice, until the tomatoes begin to burst, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add the sausage and cook, uncovered and using a wooden spoon to break up the meat and tomatoes, until the sausage is no longer pink, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stir in the eggplant. Add 1 quart water and bring to a boil. Stir in the cavatappi (or other pasta), nutmeg and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cover, reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and maintaining a vigorous simmer, until the pasta is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper, then stir in the basil.
- Serve drizzled with additional oil and sprinkled with cheese.
Adapted from a recipe by Courtney Hill from Milk Street