Photo by Gio_JL/FlickrCC
This dish is inspired by Tyler Florence's sausage rigatoni from his book, Tyler's Ultimate. I know what you're thinking: "You want me to eat fake sausage?" But it's actually not bad, especially Lightlife's "Gimme Lean" meatless sausage, which even comes in a roll as if you'd picked it up at the butcher shop.
It's true that vegetarian food that tries to be like meat will never be as good as the real thing, as is the case with nearly all approximations. But this particular mock-meat gets pretty close, especially because it has to be cooked like actual sausage, allowing its flavors to mingle with those of surrounding ingredients. Besides, it keeps a lot longer than real sausage, is cheaper, and is significantly healthier (ahem).
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
• extra-virgin olive oil
• 3/4 pound meatless ground sausage, preferably Lightlife, cut into 1-inch pieces
• 1 large eggplant, also cut into 1-inch pieces
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 28-ounce can peeled, crushed tomatoes
• 1 tablespoon fennel pollen or ground fennel seeds
• leaves of 1 bunch of basil
• 1 pound rigatoni
• 1 pound mozzarella, broken into several pieces
• 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
Place a large, covered pot of salted water over heat to bring to a boil while making the sauce. Preheat the oven to 450°F.