Friday, January 22, 2010

Baked Pasta with Eggplant, Tomatoes and Sausage

Something momentous happened to our children. They got sick.

My children posses a very desirable talent for not getting sick. Van has had ear infections and strep from teething and that's about it. Jack hasn't been to the doctor for sickness in about 2 years. I don't know why we are lucky to have produced children with great immune systems, but we consider ourselves lucky. Jack has had perfect attendance at preschool so far this year and Van hasn't missed church for any ailments in his whole life. BUT, they got sick this last weekend.

It was merely a runny nose and cough for the both of them, but sick is sick and we jumped in wholeheartedly. I pulled out our expired Dimetapp and dusted off our humidifier. I dug through my closet to find the sea foam green nose sucker for Van. I excitedly planted Jack in front of movies for two days and Van was taking longer naps. It was such a thrill to be doing something I have only heard of from other moms.

There was only one real issue with the whole sick thing, Jack hated it. Since the child is never sick, he doesn't know what to do when he is. He was sure he was sick because he had swallowed some toothpaste a few days before. On Nick Jr., he is taught that he needs to wash his hands so he doesn't get sick. So he was washing his hands all the time, convinced he would get better. One night, he was crying and wanted to know why his nose was runny and why he was so tired. I explained to him that his body is fighting a battle and trying not to get sicker. And he wailed, "Mommm, this battle is so harrrrd!"

On Sunday, I kept Jack home from church so I wouldn't be the tacky, inconsiderate mom that hauls her hacking child to Primary to mix and mingle among the healthy kids. While Daddy and Vanny were at church, I worked on dinner and came up with this. Pasta and two kinds of cheese, eggplant, pretty red tomatoes and zesty sausage. Instead of a traditional marinara sauce that most baked pastas are made with, I went with a little heavy cream. It turned out perfect. Perfect for cold winter nights. It's hearty and warm and completely comforting.

1 lb penne pasta
5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
5 links mild Italian sausage, about 16 oz
1 onion, diced
1 lb eggplant, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 tsp kosher salt
A few grinds black pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning blend
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 lb mozzarella cheese, shredded, with a handful reserved in a small bowl

Set the oven to 450 degrees.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until soft on the outside, but not cooked all the way through. Drain, pour back into pot and toss with 3 Tbsp olive oil. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add sausage links. Cook, flipping once, until sausage is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove sausage onto a plate and set aside. Once cool enough to handle, slice sausage into 1/4 inch slices and set aside.

In the same skillet over medium high heat, add remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, onion and eggplant. Season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Saute until onion is softened and eggplant is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 additional minute. Pour in heavy cream and add Parmesan cheese. Stir well to combine and simmer for 5 minutes, until cheese is melted and heavy cream is slightly thickened.

In a large bowl, combine pasta, sausage, tomatoes and mozzarella. Stir well to combine. Pour in eggplant mixture. Toss gently. Pour mixture into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with reserved mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, until cheese is browned and pasta is cooked through.

Yields a lot. Like 8 servings. Half it if you are making this for a small group. Or just make the whole thing and you have two dinners.

Served with this: Tomato cucumber salad and then steamed broccoli seasoned with a sample Greek seasoning I got from Penzey's. It is superb with any vegetables. And then we had Tricia's carrot cake for dessert (recipe coming soon). A proper Sunday dinner.

Rookie's Notes: When boiling the pasta, I wrote to not cook it all the way through. Why? Because it will finish cooking through in the oven. If not, the pasta would get overcooked and mushy in the oven. So we prepare ahead.

I used fresh tomatoes because I had them. I had originally planned to use canned diced tomatoes, but Ethan had some extra Romas from work, so I used those. Do what you will.


Sparks said...

What, you can't teach your kid to wash his hands yourself? You have to have the TV do it?

Crappy mom. No wonder your kids got sick.

Shelby Lou said...

bahaha i just laughed at your sisters comment. I also think that this would be a really good dish, but I am wondering if it would be good with zucchini because I'm not really a fan of eggplant. Maybe I will throw out the veggies all together.

Ok, this dish is getting VERY unhealthy, VERY fast.

Shanicherie said...

So, I have a hard time letting myself use cream in anything but desserts. I'll do it sometimes (and this meal might be the time to do it!), but I'd rather have an alternative...any hope there? Or do I just suck it up and exercise a little bit more tomorrow? :)

rookie cookie said...

@Sparks - Why teach my kids anything myself when the TV will? If he need to learn about chastity, I sit him in front of "Jersey Shore". If he needs to learn how the government is run, he watches "CNN". If he is ready to learn about healthy eating, Paula Deen will teach him all he needs to know. Why wouldn't I take advantage of all the good things the TV has to offer?

@Shelby Lou - You can absolutely use zucchini. I think cauliflower would be good too.

@Shanicherie - Substitute marinara sauce for the cream if you are leary about the calories.

Lars said...

HA! Oh Rookie you brightened my day with the Jersey Shore comment. I bet that show could teach street cred as well.

Sparks said...

And apparently "Spartacus" could teach him all he'll ever need to know about sex and hair-down-there.

Sarah said...

Mmm - kind of a ratatoille pasta! yum. Hope your family is on the mend quickly.

Anne Living Life said...

Wow. You have the best recipes. Love eggplant! Can't wait to try this...

Debbie 'n Gary Talbot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica said...

and The Hills could teach him all about how people in California live.

rookie cookie said...

@Jessica - Or you could. I know you are a saucy minx.

Suzanne said...

I love this blog! You have some fabulous recipes! Can't wait to try this one. As my husband prefers marinara over cream sauces (crazy man, I know), I think I will substitute the sauce. I'm sure it will be just as wonderful! Thanks!

rookie cookie said...

@Suzanne - You can come back anytime and say nice things. I like that.

Erin said...

I made this for dinner the other night and it was amazing. My husband asked me twice why I hadn't found the recipe sooner. Then I made it again to take to a girl in my ward, which made me a real member of the Relief Society. The point is, it was delicious. So thanks.

rookie cookie said...

@Erin - So today I am moving. I haven't a smidge of makeup on. I am wearing an ugly sweatshirt. My hair hasn't been washing in I-don't-know-how-many days. I am working my butt off from sun up to sun down. Periodically, my phone will chirp, letting me know I got an e-mail. So I check them throughout the day. And my e-mail showed a comment from you. And it was such a nice one. It was nice to sit down, read it and smile. Thank you for taking the time to let me know how this recipe went. It really put a smile on my face.

sarah22277 said...

I made this recipe tonight. I added both zucchini and eggplant, and did a fifty/fifty blend of cream and marinara. It came out delicious, and enough food to feed an army. BTW, if you use a whole grain pasta, like Barilla, it gets less smooshy in casseroles.

Ashley Thalman said...

Guess what I'm making right now! I omitted the sausage and added more eggplant and less pasta. I am using a bunch of cheese so this will make me very full and very happy tonight! Bless you!

Ashley Thalman said...

I am back for a report of the delish. Wow. So good. Really, Harp gobbled it up and so did I!