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.