CARMELA’S STUFFED EGGPLANT

CARMELA’S STUFFED EGGPLANT

This recipe of stuffed eggplant was generously given me by Carmela, a very sweet woman from Puglia.

In Calabria they boil the eggplant whole and then scoop out the flesh. Of course there are many variations: stuffed with stockfish, with or without tomato, with meat…And of course each family claims its own version is the best one, and if I were you I would agree with them – just saying…

I love this one because it is vegetarian and really enhances the sweetness of ripe eggplant: capers and the herbs are totally Mediterranean.

We cannot help again to thank the Arabs who imported eggplant and gave us all these wonderful recipes that enrich the cuisine of the Mediterranean, from Lebanon to Spain.

It is a very rich dish, my advice is avoiding it for dinner, digestion is very demanding. Accompanied by a green salad, it is a perfect main course.

Carmela's stuffed eggplant

These stuffed eggplant are a symbol of Southern Italy and summer, the season in which eggplants are ripe and sweet. 

  • For tomato sauce
  • 1 (28-oz) can whole tomato purée ((preferably Italian))
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 basil leaves
  • sea salt for seasoning
  • 1 pinch chili

• In case you do not find an Italian purée you might need to add 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 teaspoon sugar to add taste.

  • For eggplant and stuffing
  • 8 round eggplants
  • 1 oz. finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp salted capers carefully washed
  • 3 slices firm white bread Ciabatta style, torn into 1-inch piece (about 3 oz.)
  1. Make sauce:

  2. In a saucepan brown softly garlic and onion in olive oil, add the tomato purée, basil, a pinch of chili and season with salt. Add water, you need a sauce not too concentrated. Make it simmer for at least 20-25 minutes, until the tomato sauce turns sweet.

  3. Fry eggplants and make filling while sauce simmers:

  4. Cut the stem of the eggplants, halve them lengthwise. With a small sharp knife or a spoon, scoop out and reserve flesh, leaving 1/4-inch-thick shells. Chop flesh and transfer to a bowl.

  5. Fry the eggplants, turning over once using 2 slotted spoons, until pale brown, 3 to 5 minutes total, then transfer, stuffing sides down, to paper towels to drain.

  6. Fry the flesh in the remaining oil in the skillet, if needed add more olive oil. Strain it, squeezing the oil out of the flesh with a spoon against the strainer.

  7. When the flesh is cold, pour it in an electric mixer with chopped bread, capers, basil, celery tops, garlic, parsley, eggs and a tablespoon of tomato sauce. 

  8. Spread some olive oil and 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce in a backing pan.

  9. Firmly pack the eggplant stuffing into each eggplant shell and lay them in the backing pan, stuffing sides up.

  10. With a spoon, spread the tomato sauce on the eggplants.

  11. Sprinkle generously the Parmesan on the eggplants, and bake, until Parmesan is light brown, about 40 minutes at 350 F.

 

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About the Author

Growing up in Emilia Romagna, a region known for Parmesan, Parma ham, lasagna, and filled pasta, a great deal of my childhood was spent in the kitchen with my grandmother and mother.

Even at a very young age, I could see that for them cooking was a passionate expression of their love for their family. While I’m filled with many warm memories of watching them cook, what I remember most is circling the table and watching the stove, waiting for any opportunity I could to steal a taste.