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Playing Mamma Leone-Style Eggplant and Sausage Ragu


  • 1 medium to large firm and heavy eggplant, peel off half the skin lengthwise and cut into small bite-sized pieces (3/4-inch cubes)
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian sweet sausage with fennel seeds
  • 2 Italian red frying peppers, halved or 1 large red field pepper (sweet Bell-like pepper but more rectangular in shape), quartered lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced or 2 small red bell peppers, quartered lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions, halved, peeled, quartered through root end and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup (a fat handful) flat-leaf parsley tops
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine or water
  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 pound rigatoni with lines
  • About 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus more for table to pass
  • Green, fancy EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, to serve


Serves: 4 to 6 servings


Salt eggplant and let drain on kitchen towels or in a strainer for 20 minutes; pat dry.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for pasta.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat with the olive oil, 2 turns of the pan. Add sausage and brown, breaking it up as it cooks. Add eggplant, peppers and onions, and stir 8-10 minutes to soften. Finely chop parsley and garlic together, and add to pan. Stir in 1/2 cup wine or water and add tomatoes, breaking them up with spoon. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.

Salt boiling water and cook pasta to 1 minute shy of al dente per package directions. Reserve 1 cup cooking water and drain. Toss pasta with sauce, add starchy water, a drizzle of good EVOO and 1/2 cup cheese.

Serve in shallow bowls and pass additional cheese at the table.