My favorite Italian flavors, combined into one cheesy, flavorful dish. This Baked Penne with Eggplant and Italian Sausage will give you leftovers that you can’t wait to eat.
Pasta is one of my absolute favorite meals. Maybe it’s the Sicilian in me, but I could eat spaghetti, gnocchi, penne, orecchiette, tagliatelle, any day, everyday.
And, along with this intense craving for pasta, I’ve been thinking a lot about the trip to Italy I took with my family a couple years ago. ‘Thinking’, as in experiencing complete and total nostalgia. I still remember the day we left. We were sitting in a chapel in Rome (you know, since there’s one on every corner), listening to the bells chime. I sat amongst empty pews, gazing at the beauty surrounding me; hand-painted walls, a glowing alter… I didn’t want to leave. I soaked it all in as best as I could, while simultaneously day dreaming of when I would come back.
Read about my adventures in Sicily and Rome:
Italian food is one of my favorites to cook. Much like the hispanic way of cooking, the ingredients are wholesome, simple, yet packed with flavor. Olive oil, vegetables, garlic, herbs. Everything is fresh, too. When we visited one of my father’s cousins house in Sicily, we were taken back by the stunning garden right in their back yard. Herbs GALORE. Grapes, lemons, figs, oranges. I know this might be more typical in, say, California, but for a suburban Florida girl whose backyard barely has room for a cart wheel, this was heaven.
I decided to feed my craving with this dish. A simple, cozy, cheesy penne bake. Coincidentally, the temperature outside plummeted as I was cooking this, so it was the perfect cuddle-up-and-enjoy type of meal.
This meal can be easily made into a vegetarian dish by removing the Italian sausage. Additionally, vegan cheese can replace the mozzarella and ricotta to make it vegan.
- 1 eggplant, diced
- ¼ cup water
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large can crushed tomatoes
- ¼ cup white wine
- ½ cup marinated artichoke hearts
- 1 lb penne
- 1 cup part skim shredded mozzarella
- 4 tbsp skim ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup Italian breadcrumbs
- 2-3 Italian sausages
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- Fresh basil
- Turn your broiler to HI.
- Heat about 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat.
- Add sausages and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, or until completely browned.
- Remove sausages from the heat. Slice the sausages into about ½ inch slices. Place back in the saute pan with about 1 tsp of olive oil. Saute until cooked through.
- In a large saute pan or dutch oven, heat about 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Place the eggplant in the pan with ¼ cup water. Saute until the eggplant is soft. Keep an eye to make sure they don't become soggy (eggplant hold a lot of moisture).
- Add the tomato sauce, garlic, white wine and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Turn the heat to low and let simmer.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of hot water to boil. Add the penne and cook until al dente or desired pasta texture is reached.
- Add penne with ½ cup of pasta water to the eggplant/sauce mixture.
- Add ricotta to the pasta/sauce and combine well.
- In a greased 13x9 baking dish, pour the pasta mixture and level with a spatula.
- Add the sausage and artichokes and mix in with the pasta.
- Evenly pour the breadcrumbs atop the mixture.
- Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese evenly on top.
- Place in the broiler for 3-5 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven, or until the cheese begins to brown and bubble.
What has been your favorite place that you’ve ever visited?
Which cuisine is your favorite to cook at home?