This is a different kind of eggplant “parmigiana.” You’ll notice there isn’t any mozzarella and very little Parmesan. While this recipe calls for a lot of preparation ahead of time, there’s no fussy breading or layering steps. The presentation is fun – there’s an eggplant on my plate! The flavor is large and delicious. This is not a quick dish – don’t think that – but you can easily make most of it ahead of time and hold it until you want to serve it.
I paired this with polenta which cooperatively had to bake for the exact amount of time and at the same temperature as the eggplant. Topped with an arugula salad, it made a whole meal.
Eggplant and filling:
5 small eggplants, about 7 oz. each
1 1/2 c. tomato sauce
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp. salt
2 tbls. chopped herbs – basil, oregano, and/or parsley
1 1/2 tbls. butter
4 1/2 tbls. AP flour
1 1/2 c. milk
3/4 tsp. salt
a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg
1/8 c. freshly grated Parmesan
1/8 c. breadcrumbs
- Wash eggplants and place whole on a baking sheet. Bake at 450F for 15 minutes. (This will soften the eggplant enough to enable you to scoop out the flesh but won’t ruin the skin.)
- After the eggplants have cooled a bit. Rest them on your cutting board and see where they sit naturally. (Which side wants to be the top?) Cut a lid in the top side of your eggplant. (Use the same technique you’d use for a stuffed potato. Check the photo here.)
- Cut the flesh from the lid and discard that piece of skin. Use a spoon to scoop the rest of the flesh out of all the eggplants. Discard one of the eggplant shells. (You need the flesh from five eggplants to make four eggplants to serve.) Place the remaining four eggplant shells back on your baking sheet to await filling.
- Rough chop the eggplant flesh.
- Drizzle a little olive oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Add eggplant. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt and a few dashes of pepper. Cook covered, stirring often, for about 15 minutes. Toss in garlic and stir around once or twice.
- Add tomato sauce and herbs. Cook for three minutes. Remove from heat.
- Stuff the shells with this tomato eggplant mixture.
*Stop here, if you’re making this ahead of time. Hold the eggplants in the refrigerator until needed.
- Bake filled eggplants for 10 minutes at 450F.
- While your eggplants are baking, prepare the sauce. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk, salt, and nutmeg. Cook four more minutes. If you like, pass the sauce through a sieve once. Keep on low heat, if necessasry.
- To make the topping, mix breadcrumbs with about one tbls. of olive oil and then mix in cheese.
- Pull the eggplants out of the oven. Top with white sauce and sprinkle with topping.
- Bake for 20 more minutes.
- Alternatives to the tomato sauce recipe above include roasted vegetable sauce or a quick sauce using canned tomatoes.
- Polenta is a good match for this meal. To make, add 2 cups polenta to 6 cups boiling water and 1 tsp. of salt. Simmer over very low for 25 minutes. Spread into an oiled 9X13 pan. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Flip over on cutting board. Slice. Bake for 20 minutes at 450F. If browning is desired, broil for a few minutes at the end of the cooking time.