Stuffed Eggplant is another in my series of recipes from my mom during her visit with me this week. Although this dish is native to my mother’s hometown in Calabria, it is one that is made with many different variations all over Italy in the summer.
It’s one of those festive dishes that may seem daunting at first, but is actually wonderful to make for guests because it can be prepared entirely ahead of time and baked an hour ahead of serving. Alternatively, it can be completely baked several hours ahead of time and be served at room temperature.
It’s especially good in summer when tomatoes and eggplant are at their peak. I’ve made a fresh tomato sauce with plum tomatoes processed in the blender and blended with some sauteed red onion for about 15 minutes.
Critical to this dish is the proper sized eggplants–they need to be small (about 4″ – 5″ long not counting stem) but not tiny.
The eggplants are split lengthwise (stems removed), then hollowed out with a spoon. The shells are blanched in boiling water until tender–about 10 minutes, then allowed to drain and cool slightly. The meat is then coarsely diced and boiled in salted water for about 8 minutes, then drained well in a strainer. A stuffing is then made with breadcrumbs, cheese, egg, black pepper and parsley, and combined with the boiled eggplant pulp.
The shells of the eggplant are then lined with a single slice each of ham and provolone, then the stuffing is heaped on top and packed down by hand. They are then baked in tomato sauce until bubbling and tender. The sauce is used separately to dress pasta (it’s FULL of flavor).
With a simple green salad, this is a magnificent summer meal.
serves 4 – 6
6 small eggplant (around 5″ not including stem) + 1 large eggplant
2 1/2 c fresh breadcrumbs (from a moist fresh loaf of bread–not dried)
1/2 c seasoned breadcrumbs
1 c grated pecorino romano
1/4 c fresh chopped parsley
2 tsp black pepper
3 large eggs
salt to taste
3 thin slices boiled ham
3 thin slices provolone cheese
1 batch basic tomato sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a couple of tablespoons of salt.
Cut off stems of eggplants and split small ones in half lengthwise. With a spoon, gently scoop out the interior pulp, while leaving the skin and a thin layer of pulp intact.
Dice interior pulp into 1/2″ pieces and set aside. Drop skins in salted boiling water and boil for about 8 – 10 minutes or until tender. Remove and set aside but keep water boiling.
Peel the large eggplant and dice into 1/2″ cubes.
Boil the eggplant cubes, as well as the diced insides of the eggplants in the same pot of salted water for about 8- 10 minutes or until tender. Drain in a strainer for at least 15 minutes, while pressing down with a spatula to remove excess water.
In a large mixing bowl, combine breadcrumbs, eggplant, cheese and pepper. Taste and add salt, if necessary.
Add eggs and blend with wooden spoon or hands.
Lay out the eggplant shells and line them each with a half slice of ham (it should cover the bottom of the eggplant and seal up any tears in the shell, if any exist), and a half-slice of provolone.
Divide the stuffing among the eggplants and press into place by hand. In a baking dish, spread a layer of tomato sauce on bottom, then arrange eggplants in one layer.
Ladle a generous amount of sauce on top of eggplants and sprinkle with grated pecorino.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes, or until bubbly.
Remove eggplants from tray and use sauce to dress pasta. Sprinkle generously with pecorino romano.