Cavatelli with Sausage, Eggplant and Saffron Cream
- 1 pound cavatelli pasta
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads or an envelope of saffron powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds (1/2 palmful)
- 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 eggplant, peel off half of the skin then chop into a small dice (Tip from Rachael: I leave on half of the skin – I like the color and texture it gives the dish)
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme (5-6 sprigs), chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, to pass around the table
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente (5-7 minutes for frozen or about 14 minutes for dried pasta).
Steep saffron with turmeric in chicken broth in a small saucepot over low heat.
While the pasta is working, in a large, deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO, two turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the pork, crumbling it into small bits with a wooden spoon, then sprinkle in the fennel seeds and cook until browned, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and the crushed red pepper and season with salt and pepper.
Push the meat to the side of the pan and add the remaining 2 tablespoons EVOO, two turns of the pan, and the eggplant to the center of the pan; season with salt, pepper and thyme. Cook the eggplant until just tender, about 5-6 minutes. Combine with the meat. Deglaze the pan with wine and cook out for 1 minute. Add in the saffron stock and combine. Stir in cream and reduce heat to low and gently cook for 5 minutes more.
Turn off the heat and toss with the pasta and about 1/2 cup cheese. Pass extra cheese at the table.