I know that Orzo is just a different shape of pasta, but something about it just feels different. Regardless of my strange relationship and feelings of orzo pasta, this creamy sausage and eggplant is a winner.
I will start out by saying that eggplant in pasta sauces is a game changer! While eggplant, if not properly cooked, has a spongey texture and bitter flavour, properly cooked eggplant is smokey and meaty, and brings great flavour and texture to your pasta sauces. Because of this, if you are looking to reduce the amount of meat you eat, this dish would be perfect with eggplant alone!
I opted for a version using meat, honey garlic Italian sausage to be specific. As with my frozen chicken tip where I freeze my chicken in portion-friendly ziploc bags, I buy the large Costco trays of sausages and use the same method. This makes for easy additions to pastas, sausage, peppers and onions, and so much more. Your freezer is your friend, especially when you find yourself unsure of your dinner plans! If you have a stash of sausage in the freezer, get it out and make this creamy sausage and eggplant orzo!
I topped the pasta off with seasoned breadcrumbs mixed with parmesan cheese. Now that I look at these photos, the breadcrumbs almost look mesmerizing. The breadcrumbs add the perfect textural contrast, and make this pasta light on the cheese - that does not happen much around here.
Creamy Sausage and Eggplant Orzo
- 2 cups orzo pasta
- 3 Italian sausages casing removed
- 1 shallot minced
- 1 medium eggplant peeled and diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ cup tomato passata
- ½ cup half and half cream
- 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup reserved pasta water
- 1 cup baby spinach roughly chopped
For the Topping
- ½ cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Boil orzo pasta until slightly less than al dente, in well-salted water. Reserve ¼ cup pasta water before draining.
- In a skillet, brown Italian sausage. Crumble as it cooks.
- Add the shallots and continue to brown with the sausage. Once the shallots are browned, add the eggplant. Let the eggplant cook for 10-15 minutes, until it has softened and is brown in colour.
- Add the garlic and bell peppers and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and stir well. Let the tomato paste cook through for 1-2 minutes.
- Add the passata, half and half, and spices, and let the sauce simmer for 5-7 minutes.
- Add the orzo, spinach and pasta water and combine. Remove from the heat.
- Combine the ingredients for the topping. Sprinkle generously on top of the pasta.
- Broil the skillet until the breadcrumbs are golden brown - this will only take 2-3 minutes.