RECIPE

Stuffed Eggplant

Stuffed eggplant is a great make-ahead crowd-pleaser.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium firm eggplants (pale, purple-skinned eggplant, if available)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef or chicken stock
  • 1 can Italian tomatoes (28 ounces) or 8 fresh plum tomatoes dressed with EVOO, thyme, salt and pepper, and roasted at 325ºF for 1 hour until they burst and the skins are lightly browned
  • A few leaves basil, torn
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups whole milk, warmed
  • Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Preparation

Pre-heat the oven to 425ºF.

Halve the eggplants lengthwise. With a small paring knife, score the flesh and cut the eggplant around, leaving a 1/4-inch border from the skin. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon, leaving the eggplant shells or boats for roasting.

Chop the eggplant flesh and season with some salt. Drain on a kitchen towel or paper towels.

Dress the eggplant halves with a drizzle of EVOO to coat the fleshy insides and season with a little salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Reduce the heat to 375ºF.

Heat the EVOO, two turns of the pan, in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown and crumble; then add the eggplant flesh, onion, garlic, chili, salt and pepper. Cook to soften, 7-8 minutes add the tomato paste and stir. Add the stock and stir. Crush up the canned or roasted tomatoes and add to the pan, then reduce the heat a bit and simmer to thicken.


Heat a saucepot over medium heat to melt the butter. Whisk in the flour, cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the warm milk. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and thicken the sauce to coat a spoon.


Fill the eggplant halves with the meat and eggplant mixture, dividing evenly. Pour some béchamel over each eggplant half and top with a little Parm cheese. Bake until brown and bubbly on top

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