Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spice up your life, AKA my mouth is on fire

Sure, make fun of me for quoting the Spice Girls. As long as I can make fun of you for recognizing it.

A dear friend turned me onto Emily Bites, a "cooking light" kind of blog with droolworthy recipes. There, I spotted a recipe that made the clouds part and angels sing. That or I was really in the mood for pasta.

Spicy Sausage & Eggplant Spaghetti Bake
From Emily Bites

1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch square pieces
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided in 2
4 oz dry wheat spaghetti
1 cup red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb hot Italian turkey or chicken sausage, casings removed
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup 2% or skim shredded Mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking spray
Basil leaves, sliced (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Spray baking sheet to coat and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss eggplant with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste, until eggplant is lightly coated. Spread eggplant in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
  3. Eggplant, not hash browns
  4. While the eggplant bakes, bring a pot of water to a boil, then cook the spaghetti until it is al dente. Drain pasta, reserving about 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
  5. While the water is boiling and/or pasta is cooking, pour the other tablespoon of olive oil into a large pot and heat on medium. Add onion and cook for a few minutes, until soft and almost translucent. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add sausage to garlic and onions, breaking up into chunks with a wooden spoon. Stir in marinara and turn heat down to low.
  7. When eggplant is ready, remove from oven and set aside. Turn oven down to 375, spray a baking dish and set aside.
  8. Add drained spaghetti to sauce mixture and stir to coat.
  9. COAT'D!
    Add eggplant and crushed red pepper, stir to combine. 
    Remove from heat for 10 minutes. 
  10. Add mozzarella, 1/2 cup of Parmesan and the 1/3 cup of reserved pasta water, stir until well combined.
  11. Pour mixture into baking dish and spread out evenly. Top with bread crumbs and remaining Parmesan.
  12. Bake for 25 minutes or until bread crumbs are golden brown and cheese is bubbling.
  13. Top with basil leaves (optional) and serve.
  14. Let's eat!
    1. This is a great recipe to make on Sunday and bring to work for lunch all week.
    2. Yowza, this dish was hot! The sausages had enough heat for me, so next time I'll do without the crushed red pepper entirely. I had to add extra cheese and sauce so I could eat without pain.
    3. There's debate over whether peeling eggplant is necessary. I did for this dish, but will refrain next time to see if there's a noticeable difference. Plus, the New York Times told me not to.
    4. Hey ShopRite, thanks for driving me batshit crazy. Why on earth would you put all of your wheat pasta, including non-organic brands, in the organic section?
    5. Get the bread crumbs without cheese to lighten this recipe up further. There's already lots of cheese in here, how much more do you need? Don't answer that.
    6. It helps to chop up the onion and garlic prior to starting. I felt rushed getting everything together on the fly, and burned the onion while mincing the garlic.
    7. Speaking of rushed, there's a lot of "doing stuff while other stuff is going on" which stressed me out a little. I need to work on time management or just chill out.
    8. Use a large pot to saute the onion and garlic.  It'll be easier to add everything else to it later.
    9. I used Thin & Trim Spicy Italian Chicken Sausages. I don't think they were encased, but that didn't stop me from trying to remove the casing from one poor sausage anyway. I gave up after that one. Oh, and they're already cooked so no need to worry about disgusting raw chicken.
    10. Recipe calls for a 7x11 baking dish. All I had was 9x13. It came out fine, just flatter.
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