Orecchiette, sausage, and roasted eggplant all mixed together is the perfect meal to me. Roasting the eggplant makes it silky and smooth and is a great contrast to the fennel flavored sausage. This alone makes for a company worthy pasta dish but adding a dollop of homemade ricotta really takes it over the top. Give this a try and you'll love it.
Ingredients for Orecchiette, Sausage and Eggplant:
1 pound orechiette, cooked according to package directions
1 1/4 cups reserved pasta water, reserve before draining the pasta
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
2 pounds of eggplant
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
a handful of fresh basil
1 1/2 cups ricotta, Cranberry Walk's Recipe for Homemade Ricotta
grated parmesan cheese
Time-Saving Tip: The eggplant can be roasted earlier in the day. If you're making homemade ricotta this can be made earlier in the day, too.
Let's see what we need.
We're ready to cook.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the eggplant and cut into 3/4" pieces. Place the eggplant in a colander resting on a plate and toss with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt. Let the eggplant sit for an hour then rinse and thoroughly dry. Transfer the eggplant to a parchment-limed baking sheet and toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Roast for 25 minutes and set aside.
Start cooking the pasta. While the water comes to a boil saute the crumbled sausage until cooked and light brown. Transfer the sausage to a bowl making sure to leave the liquid fat behind. Discard the fat.
Saute the tomatoes in 3 tablespoons of olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Add the eggplant and if using, the crushed red pepper; toss. Add the sausages and combine well. Fold in the orecchiette and 3/4 cup of the reserved cooking water. Heat the mixture and add more liquid, if needed. Turn off the heat and add the basil, ripping it into large pieces as adding it.
It's ready! It looks so good. This pasta dish is packed with flavor and is just delicious. Once served, I like to put a spoonful of ricotta on top of each serving. The combination of hot pasta and cheese is just so good.