Grilled Eggplant with Savory Italian Ragu
By Cheryl Forberg, RD
Most of us are spending a lot more time at home these days. With restrictions to leave the house to go shopping, it’s more important than ever to plan ahead. It also comes in handy if you’re creative, and know how to pull together a recipe with what you have on hand. And that’s what my recipe today is all about.
With my grocery deliveries a week apart, and almost no fresh produce in the house, I lucked upon a nice shiny eggplant tucked in the back of the crisper drawer. Everything else was on hand in the pantry. And the garnish was harvested from a tired looking parsley plant in the garden.
I always have onions and garlic on hand and use them to flavor just about everything. And my spice drawer – I actually have two and they’re very large. I probably have at least 75 different spices, and a large box of extras should the bottles run low.
Corona cooking will probably not be remembered as a particularly happy phase for most of us. But with the huge and numerous changes in all of our lives, I hope we all learn some positive and productive things from it. And based on what social media is saying, there are an awful lot of people out there cooking more than ever before.
If you don’t cook often or don’t really enjoy cooking, I hope you’ve learned to make a few things, no matter how basic, by taking advantage of the myriad of resources and recipes to be found on the internet. There are quite a few books out there whose very focus is to use a very small number of ingredients, like three, to keep things simple.
And if you do like to cook, and are anything like me, you’ve probably noted a few things about your cooking habits that you weren’t really aware of, especially if you didn’t have much time on your hands to cook before. Maybe you learned more about planning ahead when you shop and cook and also about cooking extra and freezing. Or maybe you ventured out and tried something difficult or laborious to make, such as homemade bread; thus coming out the other end of this unprecedented time with some unexpected new cooking skills. I know I dusted off a few old recipes my mother used to make from my old recipe box and found my comfort food there.
In any case, here’s a recipe that I’ve actually made a few times since we’ve been home since it’s fairly easy and really tastes great. I hope you can enjoy it too.
1½ pounds globe eggplants (about 2 small), trimmed and cut into ½-inch slices
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
¾ cup white or yellow onion, finely chopped
4 ounces (1 link) pork or turkey Italian sausage or ground pork
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Melissa’s chopped garlic
1 anchovy, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 teaspoon Melissa’s Grinders Italian Seasoning
1 14.5 ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, blended (into tomato sauce)
1 cup water or broth
Serve with cooked linguine.
Brush eggplant slices with ¼ cup of olive and season with salt and pepper. Grill eggplant over medium high heat until lightly browned and cooked through. Cool. Chop in ½-inch dice. Set aside.
Over medium high heat, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add onion and pork and cook until onion is softened and meat is cooked through.
Add garlic, anchovy, chile flakes and Italian seasoning. Continue stirring so it doesn’t stick and cook for about 1 minute. Add tomato sauce and broth and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and stir in eggplant cubes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Served with cooked linguini and garnish with Italian parsley.