Eggplant, Sausage, and Ziti Casserole

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large eggplant, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick half circles
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • 1 cup yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • One (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, hand crushed with their juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (works well with gluten free flour)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 pound ziti pasta, cooked al dente (works well with Jovial Gluten Free penne)
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Prepare the eggplant –
    1. Wash and dry the eggplant. Cut off both ends. Use a vegetable peeler to peel off the skin in stripes (leaving all the skin can sometimes make it bitter or tough).
    2. Slice the eggplant crosswise into 1/3 inch slices; lay them on a sheet pan.
    3. With a pastry brush, coat each slice with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Flip and repeat.
    4. Place the sheet pan about 7 inches under the broiler and cook until the eggplant is very browned. Check on them every 4-5 minutes while they broil, as some pieces will need to be flipped and removed before others.
  2. For the Sauce –
    1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring to break up with a wooden spoon until browned, about 5 minutes.
    2. Add the onions, tomato paste, and garlic and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the paste begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
    3. Add the tomatoes with their juice, and the crushed red pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer, uncovered for about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the basil and adjust the seasoning to taste. Cover to keep warm.
  3. For the béchamel –
    1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thickened and forms a light roux, about 2 minutes.
    2. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking frequently, until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 4 minutes.
    3. Remove from the heat and season with the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper. 
  4. To assemble –
    1. Arrange half of the eggplant slices on the bottom of the casserole, overlapping as necessary.
    2. Top with half of the cooked pasta, then half of the sausage-tomato sauce.
    3. Place another layer of eggplant slices on top of the sauce, then layers of pasta, and then the rest of the sausage-tomato sauce.
    4. Pour the béchamel evenly over the mixture, then top with the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Press the topping into the pasta in various spots so the pasta pokes out and can get crispy in spots.
  5. Bake the casserole until puffed and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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