Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

I love eggplant parmesan, but this is much better, so it’s a fitting recipe for my 200th Gusto post. Woo hoo! I’m glad this recipe ends up being my 200th  because I made it up as I went along, and you can too. It’s also a fairly healthy recipe if you don’t go overboard on the cheese.

It all started one Saturday evening when I had a big eggplant, a few poblano peppers, some Italian turkey sausage and no dinner plans. Looking in the cupboard I discovered some spaghetti sauce and in the frig I had basil pesto and mozzarella cheese. I swear I’m not Italian but you wouldn’t know it sometimes. My mind started clicking and my stomach started growling.

This is more an assembly job than anything else, but it’s easier if all your ingredients are ready to go. First you need to roast your eggplant and peppers.

To prepare the eggplant, I peel it, slice it crosswise and lay the pieces out on a foil-lined sheet pan or toaster oven tray. Brush the slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Broil, but not too close to the flame or element; they need to cook, not char. When the top sides are golden-brown, flip them over, brush with oil, sprinkle with salt and roast until golden-brown and cooked.

I used poblano peppers the first time I made this, and after having red bell peppers the second time, I prefer the poblano. They have a more interesting flavor and add green to the layers. To prepare the peppers, cut off the top, remove the stem, seeds and ribs, slice the body into slabs and lay all the pieces (including the top, cut in half) on a foil-lined sheet pan or toaster oven tray, skin side up. No brushing or salting is required. Broil until just the skin is charred, not completely burnt through. Place the pieces in a plastic bag and seal. Let them steam until they’re cool enough to handle, then peel off the skin.

Get the rest of your ingredients ready – mise en place first! My sausage was raw so I had to cook that ahead of time too. You can make this dish with any combination of ingredients you like and in any order, but here’s how I did it last time.

eggplant sausage pepper parmesan recipe

Eggplant Pepper Sausage Parmesan

You’ll need a sheet pan (for roasting ingredients), plastic sealable bag (for steaming roasted peppers) and a baking dish.

  • Eggplant, sliced and roasted
  • Roasted poblano or red bell pepper, cut, roasted and skins removed
  • Italian sausage slices, cooked, sliced crosswise
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Basil pesto
  • Shredded cheese, mozzarella or Italian mix
  • Optional – parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 and let the assembly begin! I made stacks, keeping eggplant with the same diameter in the same stacks. Here’s how I assembled it:

  • Spread a thin layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the baking dish.
  • Place slices of eggplant in the dish, separated a bit.
  • Spoon some sauce (maybe a tablespoon) on each one, spread it around.
  • Add a few sausage slices to each one, 2-4 slices depending on the size of the eggplant.
  • Add some cheese to each, maybe a tablespoon, you be the judge.
  • Then it repeats, sort of. Another slice of eggplant.
  • Some sauce.
  • Now add a slice of roasted pepper.
  • Add a bit (maybe a half teaspoon) of pesto, spread it around.
  • More sausage.
  • Another slice of eggplant.
  • More sauce.
  • And the final sprinkling of cheese, go a bit heavier this time. You could add a sprinkle of parmesan on top too.

Bake at 375 for 15 minutes. Everything is already cooked so you’re just allowing it to melt and meld together.

Serve with spaghetti and tomato sauce, garlic bread and a green vegetable, like broccoli or broccoli rabe. Oh, and of course, red wine.

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