Italian Sausage & Eggplant Ragout

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 21, 2011 at 5:26 PM

 

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 3 small to medium eggplants, roasted then diced
3 lbs. Italian sausage, cut into 1" chunks
1 cup yellow onions diced
6
-8 cloves garlic minced
1/2 lb. Porcini mushrooms, chopped
1 can Contadina or Hunt's tomato paste 10 oz. size
1/3 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
3 tsp. Frank Davis Sicilian Seasoning
3-tomato paste cans full of chicken broth*
1/2 cup dry sherry wine
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
Salt & black pepper to taste
6 cups oiled rotini pasta, cooked al dente
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 dozen hot French bread pistolettes

 

Start off by slicing the eggplant in half lengthwise.

Then liberally brush both cut sides with half of the olive oil.

When that's done, place the eggplant halves cut-side-down on a shallow roasting sheet and slide them into a preheated 450 degree oven.

Bake them only until they're tender to the touch but not mushy.

In the meantime, take a 5-quart Dutch oven, pour in the remaining olive oil, drop in the Italian sausage, and fry it down until it lightly browns, stirring it constantly as it cooks.

When all of the red color is gone from the sausage and it turn opaque, take a slotted spoon, remove the mini-links from the pot, and set them aside in a bowl for a while.

Then, in the same Dutch oven, reheat the residual olive oil to sizzling and begin frying down the onions, garlic, and mushrooms.

When they become fully wilted and semi-softened, spoon in the tomato paste and completely incorporate it into the seasoning vegetables.

Continue to stir the mix as it comes together to keep the tomato paste from scorching. Then when the mix is pasty-smooth, stir in the fresh basil and the Sicilian seasoning and pour in the chicken stock and the sherry wine.

Take time at this stage to uniformly combine everything into the paste and seasonings until a smooth sauce starts to develop.

At this point, return the sausage pieces to the pot, along with the minced parsley, and stir everything together well.

If you haven't done so already dice the eggplant into small squares, stir them into the tomato sauce, reduce the fire to low, put the lid on the Dutch oven, and gently simmer all the ingredients for about 30 to 45 minutes or until the resultant gravy reaches the consistency you desire. (If you want it thinner, add a little extra stock; if you want it thicker, cook it a little longer with the lid off the pot).

All that's left to do then is to make final seasoning adjustments with the salt and black pepper before ladling the sauce, sausage, and eggplant over a serving bowl filled with the al dente rotini pasta. For the crowning touch, generously top the dish with grated Parmesan cheese and serve piping hot.

Oh, and be sure to have a stack of hot pistolettes on hand to do a little sopping.

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Chef's Notes:

*Try not to use water in this sauce. You can use either canned chicken broth or make your own with Minor's Chicken Base.
To reduce the amount of fat that renders out of the sausage and to eliminate it in the final sauce, I suggest you first pre-bake the sausage for about 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven in a shallow pan containing a scant amount of water; then discard the water and use the baked mini-links to begin the sauce-making process.

The use of the olive oil in the sautéing process, as well as in the eggplant roasting process, will produce a smoother, sweeter, and less greasy gravy.

If you'd like to add a few bay leaves to the sauce, go ahead. Just don't add any sugar to the gravy. If you do the sauce properly it won't be acidic.

Keep an eye on the height of the flame under the Dutch oven as the sauce cooks. A fire too high will cause the delicateness to be lost and, in some cases, even burn the gravy.

Give the sauce at least 30 minutes to simmer. The full flavor does not fully develop until that amount of time has transpired.

Finally, buy only the highest quality Italian sausage and the youngest eggplants you can find for this recipe. Ordinary grocery story sausage will usually produce an oily gravy, even if it is skimmed after it cooks. If you have no idea where to get authentic Italian sausage, you can all Pete Giovenco at 469-4369 and ask him make you a batch from scratch.

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