Ziti & Sweet-but-Hot Sauce with Sausage & Eggplant

ziti and sweet-but-hot sauce with sausage and eggplant

Recipe by Rachael Ray

  • 6Servings


  • 1 medium eggplant
  • Salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage with fennel, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 can (28 oz.) Italian tomatoes
  • A few leaves of basil, torn
  • 3 to 4 tbsp. chopped hot Italian cherry pepper rings plus 2 tbsp. brine, or 3 tbsp. Cento Cherry Pepper Hoagie Spread
  • 1 lb. ziti with lines (rigate)
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for tossing and serving
  • EVOO, for serving


1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel half of the skin off the eggplant in long strips, leaving a strip of skin between peeled sections. (The eggplant will look striped.) Chop the eggplant and toss with salt. Let the eggplant drain on a kitchen towel while you start the sauce.

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

3. Heat a large saucepot or skillet over medium-high to high. Add the olive oil, two turns of pan. Add the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes. Squeeze the excess liquid from the eggplant and add to the saucepot. Add the onion and garlic. Cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking the tomatoes up with the spoon, until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Wilt in the basil and stir in the cherry peppers and brine.

4. Salt the boiling water and add the pasta. Cook until 1 minute shy of the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain.

5. Add the pasta, cooking water, a fat handful of cheese, and a swirl of EVOO and toss until the pasta is coated. Serve in shallow bowls and pass more cheese at the table.