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Recipe

Eggplant, Sausage, And Ziti Casserole

  • Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large eggplant, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick half circles
  • 1 tablespoon salt, possibly more or less depending on saltiness of sausage
  • 2 teaspoons Emeril's Italian Essence or Italian herb blend
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • One 28-ounce can whole Italian tomatoes, crushed with their juice
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 pound ziti pasta
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 375?F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch casserole with 1 teaspoon olive oil and set aside.
  • Heat 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant in batches, seasoning on both sides with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon Italian Essence, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook until golden brown, adding more olive oil if needed. Transfer the eggplant slices to a plate as they cook and set aside.
  • Heat the same Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, stirring to break up with a wooden spoon until browned, about 5 minutes. 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. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the remaining teaspoon Italian Essence, the black olives, and the crushed red pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer, uncovered, until the flavors marry and the sauce slightly thickens, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the basil and adjust the seasoning to taste.
  • Meanwhile, 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. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking frequently, until the sauce is thick and smooth, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and season with the nutmeg, 1 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  • Combine 4 quarts water seasoned with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large heavy pot over high heat. Bring to a boil. Add the ziti and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain in a colander.
  • Arrange half of the eggplant slices on the bottom of the casserole, overlapping as necessary. Top with half of the cooked pasta, then half of the sausage-tomato sauce. Place another layer of eggplant slices on top of the sauce, then layers of pasta and sausage-tomato sauce. Pour the white sauce evenly over the mixture, then top with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.
  • Bake the casserole until puffed and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot.