1 pot of Mary Clare’s Sicilian Sugo (find recipe below)
6 whole eggplants, peeled
24 toes of garlic
24 pieces of Pecorino Romano cheese
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
12 links Italian sausage, oven roasted until tender
1 lb. rigatoni pasta, cooked al dente
½ cup minced parsley
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 heaping tablespoons parsley, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 small cans Hunt's or Contadina tomato paste
6 tomato-paste cans filled with water (or chicken broth)
2 teaspoons sweet basil
2 teaspoons Frank Davis Sicilian Seasoning
2 whole bay leaves
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 loaf hot, crusty, garlic bread
1 bottle Italian red wine (your favorite)
First, make four long cuts in the peeled eggplants from top to bottom. Then place thin slivers of Romano cheese and thin slivers of garlic at several places along each cut, pushing them toward the center of the eggplant.
Now in a high-sided fry pan, fry the eggplants whole in the olive oil, tossing them over and over so that each side browns beautifully. All that’s left to do now is to drop the eggplants down into the simmering pot of gravy and cook them for 1 hour until done.
When you’re ready to eat, spoon out a hearty portion of the eggplants over a helping of rigatoni, serve with a roasted sausage or two, and top everything with a generous sprinkling of shredded Parmesan cheese and a touch of fresh parsley for garnish. (Note--if you’d prefer not to roast the sausage separately in the oven, you can drop them into the gravy and cook them along with the eggplants for 1 hour).
In a heavy 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the olive oil to medium high.
Then drop in the chopped onions, the parsley, and the garlic and-stirring constantly-lightly saute them together until the onions just soften (it is not necessary to brown them and you don't want the garlic to burn.) About three or four minutes should do it.
When the onions, parsley, and garlic are ready, add the tomato paste to the pot and rapidly stir it into the mix. Remember that, no matter what Granny told you, you don't have to fry tomato paste for eternity to make good red gravy! Actually, if you fry the paste for much longer than 5 minutes you increase the acidity of the tomatoes and the gravy will be strong, harsh and bitter. You want it to come out light and sweet, so just cook it a minute or two until the paste, onions, parsley, garlic, and olive oil are mixed well.
At this point, add the water or chicken broth to the tomato paste and stir again until the mixture is silky smooth and you begin to notice a "gravy" forming.
Keep in mind that the secret to making outstanding red gravy the right consistency is to use three cans of water for every one can of tomato paste. This is not optional and should be followed as gospel!
When the sauce is thoroughly mixed, add the basil, the Sicilian seasoning, and the bay leaves and season the gravy with salt and pepper to your taste.
Chef’s Notes: If you’d prefer to oven roast the eggplants and then serve them separately over pasta and topped with gravy and an Italian sausage link, you can bake them in the oven for 1 hour at 300 degrees.
If you’d like to remove some of the bite from the eggplants and keep them from absorbing too much of the olive oil as they fry, salt them generously and set them on several layers of paper towels on the countertop to drain before putting them in the pan to brown.
Oh, yeah—and before frying the whole eggplants, be sure to wash off all the salt and pat each eggplant dry with paper towels.