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.
Serves 6-8 | Prep 30| Cook 30 | Rest 30 min | Whole30 compliant
3 1/2 pounds globe eggplants (about 2-3)
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
2 pounds ground pork
3 tablespoons Italian Sausage Seasoning (p. 49)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 (28 ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes (I like Muir Glen)
8 large basil leaves, slivered (about 2 tablespoons)
salt and black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1. 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.
2. Slice the eggplant into rounds about 1/2-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.
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 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.
5. 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.
6. When the tomato sauce is cool, beat 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.
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 1 1/2 cups of the sauce. Create another layer of eggplant, top with the remainder of the meat and 1 cup of the sauce. Build your final layer with eggplant and spread the remaining sauce evenly over the 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 the olive oil, then sprinkle with the remaining basil.
NOTE: 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 pan 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, or omit the meat and use as a side dish or to feed vegetarian friends.
This is delicious warm and at room temperature. I’ve enjoyed it in the following ways:
- a big hunk alongside fennel sautéed with garlic and olive oil
- a big hunk alongside cabbage sautéed with coconut oil and Italian herbs
- chopped into cubes and stir-fried with cabbage for breakfast
- cold, out of the fridge, with my fingers, door propped open with my hip, in a feeding frenzy
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