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Melanzane ripiene (Stuffed eggplant)

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Melanzane ripiene (Stuffed eggplant)

Rosetta

In Calabria, eggplant is stuffed with different kinds of filling and cooked in different ways. If you're serving it as an appetizer or side dish, you would use a simple filling. But a hearty filling, like the recipe below that we prepared in my last class, makes a substantial main dish. Most cooks fry or blanch the  eggplant shells before stuffing them, baking the filled shells for only about 20 minutes. Because this recipe uses a filling with raw meat, and therefore requires a longer cooking time, it's not necessary to cook the shells before stuffing them.

I typically use the small Italian eggplant variety when I make this recipe, but very small Globe variety eggplant will work as well.

Here is the cooked pulp:

Here are the rest of the ingredients that will go into the filling:

And this is what the eggplant look like after they are filled:

Right before you put them in the oven:

And here they are, ready to eat:

Enjoy!

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Melanzane ripiene

(Baked stuffed eggplant)

8 small Italian eggplants

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced

1 pound ground pork

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (see note below for the recipe)

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

3/4 cup water

2 cups simple tomato sauce

Grated pecorino cheese for topping eggplants

1. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Remove the pulp, leaving the shell about a quarter inch thick. Be careful not to tear the sides or bottom. Chop the eggplant pulp finely and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped eggplant pulp, garlic and parsley. Sauté for a few minutes until the eggplant pulp is tender.

3. Remove from the heat and add the ground pork, breadcrumbs, basil, pecorino cheese, and egg. Add the water and mix all gently by hand. Add the teaspoon of salt and season with pepper to taste.

4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

5. Lightly salt the eggplant shells and fill them with the stuffing.  Spoon a layer of tomato sauce in a baking dish and place the stuffed eggplants alongside each other on top of the sauce. Spoon a little more tomato sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with pecorino cheese.

6. Loosely cover the baking dish with foil, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes. The eggplant can be served hot or at room temperature.

Serves 8

Copyright 2005, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.

For the breadcrumbs:

How to Make Fresh Breadcrumbs

Use a dense, day-old Italian or French loaf. Do not remove the crusts. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and process them in a blender, filling it no more than halfway, until they are as fine as possible. You can freeze the leftover breadcrumbs for future use.