Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family and though thought of as a vegetable, it is actually a fruit, specifically a berry! It contains nutrients which include lutein, zeaxanthin, resveratrol and vitamin C, which support retinal health. It is also a good source of folic acid and potassium. This recipe changes up a typical pasta sauce by adding cinnamon and allspice, an homage to moussaka, a wonderful Greek dish.

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Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • coarse salt (kosher or real salt)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced small
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb ground lamb
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 28 oz can peeled and crushed tomatoes
  • 8-12 oz penne pasta, cooked al dente (cook while sauce is simmering)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. To cut down on any bitterness and to reduce the amount of oil the eggplant will need, place the eggplant in colander and season generously with the coarse salt. 

  2. Weigh down the eggplant and allow to sit for about 40 minutes (an easy way to do this is fill a 1-gallon plastic zip-lock bag with water, seal tightly and place over the eggplant). 

  3. Rinse the salt off the eggplant and pat dry.

  4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add eggplant and cook, stirring often, until golden brown on all sides, about 20 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

  5. Heat remaining oil in the same pan and sauté the onion, garlic, lamb, cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper until the lamb is cooked. 

  6. Stir in the crushed tomatoes. Lower the heat and simmer until sauce has slightly thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Add back the eggplant pieces. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste.

  7. Place pasta in a large serving bowl and pour the sauce over the pasta. Garnish with the chopped fresh parsley and sprinkle lightly with the grated parmesan cheese – can serve more on the side.

Recipe Notes

Change out the spices (cinnamon and allspice) and make it hot-spicy with ½ teaspoon chili flakes. Change out the parsley or add chopped fresh basil. Substitute ground turkey, chicken, or beef for the lamb or eliminate to make it vegetarian. Sauté and add zucchini and/or bell peppers. Change out the Parmesan cheese and substitute feta or ricotta salata.