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Ziti & Sweet-but-Hot Sauce with Sausage & Eggplant

Ziti & Sweet-but-Hot Sauce with Sausage & Eggplant


  • 1 medium eggplant

  • Salt

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil

  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage with fennel, casings removed

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1 can (28 oz.) Italian tomatoes

  • A few leaves of basil, torn

  • 3 to 4 tbsp. chopped hot Italian cherry pepper rings plus 2 tbsp. brine, or 3 tbsp. Cento Cherry Pepper Hoagie Spread

  • 1 lb. ziti with lines (rigate)

  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for tossing and serving

  • EVOO, for serving


  • Step 1

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

  • Step 2

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

  • Step 3

    Heat a large saucepot or skillet over medium-high to high. Add the olive oil, two turns of 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 to the saucepot. Add the onion and garlic. Cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking the tomatoes up with the spoon, until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Wilt in the basil and stir in the cherry peppers and brine.

  • Step 4

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

  • Step 5

    Add the pasta, cooking water, a fat handful of cheese, and a swirl of EVOO and toss until the pasta is coated. Serve in shallow bowls and pass more cheese at the table.