Saturday Kitchen: Baked Ziti with Sausage, Eggplant and Olives - Plus a Wine Recommendation!

A good friend just had her 3rd child and I recently brought this dish over on one of my visits.

I've actually had this recipe for about a year, but hadn't made it in awhile. Taking it to her house reminded me how much I really do like it. Plus, it freezes beautifully and makes a ton - a real plus for those quick mid week meals. And don't forget to check out the wine recommendation at the bottom of this post!

4 tsp. plus 1 Tbs. olive oil
3/4 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 can (28 oz.) crushed plum tomatoes with juices
5 oz. ziti, cooked until al dente
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup rinsed chopped Kalamata olives
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 400°F.

In a 10-inch nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 tsp. of the olive oil. Add the sausage and cook, stirring and crumbling with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Discard all but 1 Tbs. of the fat in the pan. Set the pan over medium-high heat and warm 2 tsp. of the olive oil. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, under tender and browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Set the pan over medium heat and warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the onion and cook until softened, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Cook until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Add the sausage, pasta, basil, olives, 2 cups of the mozzarella and the tomato sauce to the bowl with the eggplant and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta mixture to the fry pan and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and the Parmigiano-Reggiano on top. Cover the pan, transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover the pan and broil at 500°F for 5 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.

Wine Pairing
New to Saturday Kitchen, will be a wine pairing tip, which based on recently received comments is something that everyone is very interested in! (See I do read all those comments! Thanks for telling me what you want!)

In terms of wine pairing, one of the easiest tips I can tell you is to stay regional.

Baked Ziti is obviously an Italian influenced recipe, so I would recommend an Italian wine.

Getting more specific, I would go for a medium bodied wine with bright red fruits; a Sangiovese or a Valpolicella would work well.

I recently discovered the 2007 Valplicella from Villa Sonia and can highly recommend it. Although it is a little on the pricey side, around $20 a bottle, it really is worth it!

As always, if you try it and like it, please do let me know!