Cavatelli with Sausage, Eggplant and Saffron Cream


  • Salt
  • 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.

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