Italian Sausage and Eggplant Strata
It's said that good things come to those who wait, and this dish may test your patience. Constructed with layers of tender eggplant, spicy homemade sausage, and silky tomato sauce, this casserole tastes best eaten a few days after baking. But the delayed gratification is worthwhile. A bite of the top layer, so tender and airy, is followed by a pleasant kick of heat that's soon tempered by the creamy eggplant.<b>Please note - this recipe makes a ton (it serves 6-8 people; great for dinner parties or for a couple who both like eggplant and commit to eating leftovers for several days). If you're making this for one, cut the recipe in half. You'll still have plenty of leftovers but it won't feel so overwhelming.
Italian Sausage Seasoning
- 4 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tbsp dried Italian herbs
- 4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 tsp granulated garlic powder
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1½ tsp fennel seed
- 3½ pounds globe eggplants (about 2-3)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil melted
- 2 pounds ground pork
- 3 tbsp Italian Sausage Seasoning
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 28 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- 8 large basil leaves slivered (about 2 tablespoons)
- 4 eggs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
Italian Sausage Seasoning
- In a medium bowl, crush the dried parsley and Italian herbs with your fingers or a fork to release their flavor. Add the salt, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, red pepper flakes, and fennel seed. Mix with a fork and transfer to an airtight container for storage.
- Preheat the oven to 400° F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil and brush a 13x9-inch pan with some of the melted coconut oil.
- Slice the eggplant into rounds about ½-inch thick and place on baking sheet. Brush the eggplant with the remaining melted coconut oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° F for the next stage of baking.
- While the eggplant is roasting, crumble the ground pork into a large mixing bowl with your hands, then add the Italian Sausage Seasoning and knead until well blended.
- Heat up a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Crumble the pork into the pan, then break up large chunks using a wooden spoon. Cook until the pork is nicely browned, about 7-10 minutes. Remove the meat to a bowl and return the pan to the stove.
- Reduce the heat to medium, then add 1 tablespoon coconut oil and the garlic to the pan. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and 1 tablespoon of the basil. Stir to combine, increase heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
- When the tomato sauce is cool, scramble the eggs in a small bowl, then blend them into the tomato sauce with a wooden spoon. Warning: This will not look like something you'll want to eat, but soldier on.
- To assemble the strata, place a single layer of eggplant in the bottom of the greased 13x9-inch pan. Sprinkle half of the cooked meat on top of the eggplant, then top with 1½ cups of the sauce. Create another layer of eggplant, top with the remainder of the meat and 1 cup of the sauce. Build you final layer with eggplant and spread the remaining sauce evenly over the top.
- Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing or eating. Before serving, lightly brush the top of the strata with the olive oil, then sprinkle with the remaining basil.
If you're waiting a few days to eat it (good for you!), skip the olive oil and basil step when the strata comes out of the oven. Instead, wrap the tan tightly in aluminum foil and place in the refrigerator. When you're ready to eat, keep the strata covered in foil and reheat in a 300F oven for 20-30 minutes, then follow the garnish instructions.
You Know How You Could Do That?
- Try a combo of 1 pound pork and 1 pound beef.
- Leave the meat out all together and use as a side dish or to feed vegetarian friends.
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