Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Recipe Test - Italian Sausage Eggplant Strata

This recipe is another home run from the cookbook Well Fed by Melissa Joulwan. It got two thumbs way up from my husband who ate it the next day for breakfast and lunch. And then had it that same day as a snack. Basically he kept eating it the entire day. I have to agree, it is pretty darn good. The writer advises that it tastes better after spending a few days in the fridge so I made the pan on a Sunday night and we ate it during the week. It kept very well and was DEE-LISH.

Note that you need to prepare a simple Italian sausage spice mix for use in this meal. You won't need all of it, so save the rest in a little jar or spice container for future use. Also, I found that by the time I got to the top layer of the strata, I was running out of tomato mixture. Others who made the recipe after me had the same problem as well, so what I've done here is increased the ingredients for the tomato mixture to proportion it a bit better.

Italian Sausage Seasoning

  • 4 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp dried Italian herbs (I didn't have one bottle all mixed together so I did basil, oregano, and a little sage.)
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seed (optional) - you should use this if you have it, though, it really gives the meat that sausagey taste
In a medium bowl, crush the dried parsley and Italian herbs with your fingers or a fork to release their flavor. Add the black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, salt, red pepper flakes, and fennel seed. Mix with a fork and transfer to an airtight container for storage.

Italian Sausage and Eggplant Strata

  • 3 1/2 pounds globe eggplants (about 2-3)
  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 3 Tbsp Italian Sausage Seasoning (recipe above)
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 tsp)
  • 2 (28 oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 8 large basil leaves, slivered (about 2 Tbsp)
  • 6 eggs
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil and brush a 13x9 baking dish with some of the melted coconut oil.

2. Slice the eggplant into rounds about 1/2 inch thick and place on the baking sheets. (I used the smaller Italian eggplants the first time I made this which is why the pictures below may look a little different.) Brush the eggplant with the remaining melted coconut oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, and then remove from the oven and allow to cool. Reduce the oven temp to 350F for the next stage of baking.

3. 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.

4. Heat a large saute 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 browned, about 7-10 minutes. Remove meat to a bowl and return the pan to the stove.

5. Reduce the heat to medium, then add 1 Tbsp coconut oil and the garlic to the pan. Cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and 1 Tbsp of the basil. Stir to combine, increase heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

6. When the tomato sauce is cool, scramble the eggs in a small bowl, then blend them into the tomato sauce with a wooden spoon. (This will look really gross, but do it anyway.)

7. 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 a third of the sauce. Create another layer of eggplant, top with the remainder of the meat the second third of the sauce. Build your final layer with eggplant and spread the remaining sauce evenly over top.

8. 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 olive oil, then sprinkle with the rest of the basil. (I skipped the step with the olive oil and the basil and wrapped the pan tightly with plastic wrap and kept it in the fridge a few days. When we were ready to eat it, I cut out a few squares and topped them with basil and heated them up in the microwave. You could also heat it back up in the oven or toaster oven.)

I bought these little spice pots in a pack of three in Homegoods.
They are the perfect size to hold the remainder of this spice mix.

browned meat, cooling off to the side

mmmm fire roasted tomatoes!

yucky raw egg mixture
Build the strata! Layer one: eggplant

Layer 2: Meat; Layer 3: Tomato mixture
3 more layers of eggplant/meat/tomatoes, top off with
more eggplant and the rest of the tomatoes

as you can see, I didn't have enough tomato mixture to cover
the entire top which is why I've increased those ingredients


  1. This recipe is SOO delicious. It is great for company--everyone loves it. We made it with 1lb of pork and thought that was plenty. Thanks for the amazing recipe!

    1. Agreed! Melissa Joulwan is a genius! :)