Friday, May 22, 2009


I've always thought Tyler was a hunk, but it's just recently that I've begun to appreciate his recipes. Right now I own just one of his cookbooks, Tyler's Ultimate. I've cooked several recipes from it, my favorite to date his recipe for spaghetti carbonara. Based on that success, I decided to try another of his pasta recipes, this one for baked penne with eggplant and sausage. Let me say upfront that Tyler's recipe used rigatoni, but Ronzoni Smart Taste doesn't produce that shape, so I used penne rigate. Tyler's recipe called for Italian pork sausage; I substituted Italian turkey sausage. Tyler suggested fresh mozzarella; I used part skim shredded. Finally, Tyler's recipe called for large amounts of olive oil. I reduced those amounts greatly.

I love eggplant, which is strange since I loathe zucchini in all its forms. Put eggplant together with mozzarella and you're already halfway home. This recipe makes enough to serve 6-8 (we ate it for 2 nights and still had leftovers), so it's a great dish to serve a crowd as a first course. I would definitely make it again, but with some other changes which I'll discuss at the end.

Kosher salt
extra virgin olive oil
5 links turkey sausage
1 large eggplant (1 1/2 lbs), skin on, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (28 oz) can peeled, whole San Marzano tomatoes
leaves from a small bunch of basil
1 lb penne
1 lb mozzarella (I used shredded, part skim, not the fresh Tyler called for)
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. Set aside a 9 X 13 inch baking dish.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet and saute the sausage, about 2 minutes per side, until browned, but not cooked through. Place in the baking dish.

Turn the heat to medium, add another small amount of olive oil and add as many eggplant pieces as fit in a single layer. Sprinkle well with salt and saute until browned on each side, about 7-8 minutes. Add more oil if you need to do a second batch. Place in the baking dish.

Add another small amount of olive oil to the pan and saute the onion and garlic for 4-5 minutes.

Place the whole can of tomatoes in a large bowl and use your hands to break them up. Add to the onion garlic mixture along with the basil and simmer for 15 minutes, until slightly thickened.

Cook the pasta to the al dente stage and drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Chop the sausage into bite-sized chunks. Add the tomato sauce and rigatoni along with the reserved pasta water and half the mozzarella. Combine well. Top with the other half of the mozzarella and all of the grated cheese. If you wish, drizzle with a bit more olive oil.

Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly and golden.
Even with my substitutions and the reduction in the amount of olive oil, this was a very satisfying and flavorful dish. Here are the changes I'll make next time:

  • brown the sausage in the oven--no oil required--OR
  • remove the sausage from the casings and saute in a small amount of oil
  • decrease the amount of mozzarella to 8 oz instead of 16 oz
  • roast the eggplant with a small amount of olive oil drizzled over all

There is no reason why this dish required the copious amounts of olive oil Tyler called for. Those 2-counts and 3-counts and 1/3 cups really add up, especially since eggplant is like a sponge and soaks up all the oil.

Please be sure to visit the wonderful blog hosted by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen, Megan of My Baking Adventures, and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. The site is Tyler Florence Fridays and you can see a round-up of Tyler recipes there every Saturday.


  1. Love the addition of eggplant in this dish. We had eggplant last night and it just tastes so good with tomato and cheese. Actually, I'd like some more right now!

  2. Great ways to cut down on the fat in this recipe. Baked pasta always looks so inviting!

  3. Yum - I've had my eye on that recipe for quite some time now. Good to know it can be made more healthy!

  4. I have been eyeing this dish for a while and wondered how far I could go in lightening it up. Yours looks perfect!

  5. Tyler must own shares in olive oil companies, he uses so much of it.

  6. Delicious Arlene, just lovely. We encourage playing with the recipe and Tyler does too. :)

  7. I have made this too, and found the same issue with the olive oil. Roasting is a great idea, next time! Can't wait to see what you think of the BBQ chicken!

  8. I love all the changes you made to lighten it up. I always find I can cut out a bunch of the olive oil in Tyler's recipes without sacrificing taste.

  9. Hi Arlene
    This looks so good! It's one of my husband's favorites, and I like how you lightened up the ingreadients.

  10. I'm right with you on the use of Tyler's olive oil. It's just too much for the waist line and the wallet. Love this pasta recipe. Easy and delicious and enough food for leftovers. Good job making the dish much healthier!!

  11. i agree, tyler reels you in with the hunkiness but keeps you interest with the awesome recipes. :) and my man actually likes his food too which is a big plus. baked pasta is one of the best things in the world, this so looks good. and i love how you lightened it up with a few simple changes.

  12. This looks absolutely delicious!

  13. One of the fun things here is seeing who needs to swap off which ingredient for another, and how the results measure up...your dish looks and sounds marvelous! I'm game to try!

  14. So, tell me about this "thing" you have going with Tyler. I saw him first you know! :p You are such a sweetie. I love this recipe.

  15. Ohh yeah eggplant AND sausage! It's like a 2-for-1 deal! :D


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