Eggplant & Sausage Casserole
Instead of layers, you can cut the eggplant into cubes & mix everything together, top with cheese & bake as directed
- 1 large eggplant, cut crosswise into 1/3-inch thick rounds
- 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 pound Italian sausage, removed from casings
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole Italian tomatoes, crushed, and their juices
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings
- 1/2 cup pitted black olives, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1/4 cup minced fresh basil leaves
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 8 ounces ziti, cooked according to package directions and drained
- 1 cup grated mozzarella
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 by 13-inch casserole dish and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1/4 cup of the oil. Add the eggplant in batches, seasoning on both sides with salt and pepper, and cook until golden, adding more oil as needed. Transfer to a plate as they cook, and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot but not smoking, add the onion and sausage, and cook, stirring, until the sausage is browned and the onion is soft, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, their juices, the Italian seasoning, black olives, 1 teaspoon of salt, 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 seasoning, to taste.