All fans of eggplant should read this. And if you are not a fan, you should read as well, because you will become one after making this dish. Here is why:
1. It is not hard to do. There are a couple of steps involved, but no special cooking skills are required. It is mostly “chop, saute, mix together and pop in the oven”.
2. It can also be customized easily: include or omit certain veggies; or make it vegetarian by skipping the sausage. It can even be modified to suit your picky eaters*!
3. It is bursting with flavors: the eggplant, herbs, the sausage connect in one hearty comfort casserole.
I haven’t tried freezing it, but my guess is it will freeze fine. It would be a perfect addition to your freezer meal list if you have one (you can see mine here. Freezer meals optimize my life!).
Healthy living tips:
*Eggplant is known to absorb a lot of oil during cooking process. I found that microwaving it for about 5 minutes before cutting makes it less “spongy” and reduces the amount of oil needed for cooking.
*You can increase the ratio of veggies to pasta to make it even lighter.
*Go light on the cheese: good quality cheese goes a long way.
Adapted from Macheesmo
1 lb Italian sausage of your choice
2 Tb canola oil
1 large eggplant, microwaved for about 5 seconds and cut in 1 ” cubes
1 tsp each dried thyme, oregano and basil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 each red and yellow bell pepper (or 1 whole pepper)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes undrained
8 oz orzo
1 cup plus 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (can use fresh)
1/2 cup each feta and Parmesan cheese, plus additional 1/2 cup Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
1. In a large pot cook orzo per package instructions, drain and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3. In a large skillet brown Italian sausage on medium-high heat, breaking it into small chunks, until no longer pink. Remove on a plate lined with a paper towel.
4. Drain/wipe the skillet. Add canola oil and brown the eggplant for about 5-7 minutes. You want nice caramelization on it for maximum flavor. Add the herbs and the red pepper flakes once the eggplant starts getting some color. Remove the eggplant to the pot with the orzo.
5. To the skillet add the rest of the vegetables and saute on medium heat until tender, about 7 minutes, add garlic and saute another minute or two. Remove to the pot with orzo and eggplant.
6. Add the sausage, tomatoes and cheese to the pot and stir everything to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Transfer the mixture to a 9×13 casserole dish, sprinkle with the 1/2 cup mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes covered with aluminum foil, and additional 10-15 minutes uncovered, until the cheese is melted/crispy.
Picky eater tip:
*Leave some orzo plain, or mixed with whatever vegetables your picky eater likes. Add this mixture to one side of the baking dish, put a strip of aluminum foil between this part of the dish and the rest.
What are your ways to accommodate picky eaters? Or if you don’t have picky eaters in your family– share your secret, I would love to know!