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Rachael's Ziti and Sweet-but-Hot Sauce with Sausage and Eggplant

Rachael's Ziti and Sweet-but-Hot Sauce with Sausage and Eggplant


  • 1 medium eggplant

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage with fennel, casings removed

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1 28-ounce can Italian tomatoes

  • A few leaves basil, torn

  • 3 to 4 tablespoons chopped hot Italian cherry pepper rings plus 2 tablespoons brine or 3 tablespoons cherry pepper spread, such as Cento

  • 1 pound ziti rigate (with lines)

  • Grated Pecorino Romano, for tossing and serving

  • Sheep’s milk ricotta, for serving

  • Mint and parsley, for garnish


Using a vegetable peeler, peel half of the skin off the eggplant in long strips, leaving a strip of skin between peeled sections. Chop eggplant and toss with salt. Let drain on a kitchen towel while you start the sauce.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.

Heat a large saucepot or skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add the olive oil, 2 turns of the pan. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes.

Squeeze the excess liquid from the eggplant and add it to the pan. Add the onion and garlic. Cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and break them up with a spoon. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Wilt in the basil and stir in the cherry peppers with their brine or the cherry pepper spread.

Salt the boiling water and add the pasta. Cook until 1 minute shy of al dente per package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain.

Add the pasta, reserved cooking water, a fat handful of Pecorino cheese and a swirl of EVOO to the sauce and toss until the pasta is coated. Serve in shallow bowls topped with a dollop of ricotta, and mint and parsley to garnish.