Saturday, July 22, 2017

Stuffed Eggplant Parmesan with Italian Sausage

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My husband has been craving eggplant lately.  He even left a magazine page open to an eggplant recipe for me to see.  Okay!  Okay!  I get the message.  Now on the the other hand, I'm over here trying to eat healthy, so I didn't exactly want to drag out the fryer to make the traditional eggplant Parmesan. Somewhere I found a the concept of making the recipe IN the eggplant itself... BINGO! No frying, and super elegant!  

To make this eggplant dish more "man friendly," and also to make it a heartier dish, I added some Italian sausage to it.  Maybe that's not exactly traditional in eggplant Parm, but who cares?  It may just be the difference in getting your kiddos or veggie-phobe family members to eat it!  Well whatever the case, it went over like a champ!  My dear husband said he would eat this any night!   Not to mention the presentation is very elegant if you are having a dinner party.  


Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 2 (16 oz) eggplants
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (approximately) (EVOO)
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage 
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp  dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (~ 3 large cloves, finely minced)
  • 1 cup yellow onions, chopped 
  • 1 cup chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil ribbons
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano, divided
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups jarred pasta sauce, divided
  • 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into small pieces
  • Small, fresh basil leaves for topping

Step-by-Step
Begin by preheating the oven to 350F.  Then prepare the eggplants by peeling strips of the skin about 1" wide off of them with a vegetable peeler.

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise.
We are going to roast the flesh of the eggplant and want the heat to penetrate all the way through, so score the eggplant pulp in a crosshatch pattern, being careful to not cut through the skin.  This is also going to make it easier to remove the flesh after it has been roasted.
Brush each eggplant half with 1 tablespoon EVOO in a 9"x 13" casserole baking dish.
Bake the eggplant in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.
While the eggplant is roasting in the oven, let's start on the rest of our filling.
In a heavy skillet, begin browning the Italian sausage, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks over medium high heat.
1 pound mild Italian sausage
As you sausage is cooking, let's start seasoning it with 1 tsp kosher salt.
1 tsp kosher salt
When the sausage is about halfway cooked, add the chopped onions.
When the onions are soft and mostly translucent, further season the meat with 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano and 1 Tbsp minced garlic.  Adjust seasoning as needed.   Remove from heat when done.
1 tsp dried basil 

1 tsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp minced garlic

Allow roasted eggplants to cool briefly to make them easier to handle.  Remove the pulp from the eggplants using a serrated tomato corer or a melon baller, leaving about a 1/2-inch shell intact.  Set the shells aside.  Coarsely chop the pulp and set aside in a medium bowl.
roasted eggplants

To the eggplant pulp, add chopped tomato.
1 cup chopped tomatoes

Add in 1 cup of the cooked Italian sausage mixture.  You may choose to use more if you'd like, but that's how much I chose.  I set the rest aside for another application.  šŸ˜„  I just didn't think there would be any way all of the would fit back into those eggplant shells.  Ha!
1 cup cooked Italian sausage mixture

Add in 1/2 tsp kosher salt.
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Add in 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella.
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella

Add  in 1/2 cup fresh basil that you have cut into thin ribbons.  I was a tad bit shy of 1/2 cup here, but you get the picture.
1/2 cup fresh basil ribbons

Add in 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano.
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano

Add in 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes.  You might like to bump this up to 1/2 tsp if you would like a little more heat.
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix in the two large eggs to the mixture and stir well to incorporate all ingredients.
2 large eggs

Spread 1/2 cup of the jarred pasta sauce over the bottom of the casserole dish.  Arrange the eggplant shells over the sauce.  Fill the shells equally with the cooked eggplant pulp/Italian sausage mixture.
1/2 cup jarred pasta sauce

Top with remaining 1 cup of pasta sauce, spreading evenly to cover filling.
1 cup jarred pasta sauce
Sprinkle the tops of each eggplant using the 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs.
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
*sub Udi's bread, crumbled in food processor for gluten free recipe

Tear the fresh mozzarella into pieces and top the eggplant halves, then sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano.
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, torn + 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano

Bake eggplants in preheated oven until the cheeses are melted and just slightly browned, about 40 minutes.

Garnish with small basil leaves to serve.
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I hope you enjoyed this great recipe!  Here are some others I think you'll like.
Baked Brie Dip with Sun Dried Tomatoes - all you need is French bread and wine and you're all set!
menumusings.com

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Spicy Garlic Aioli  - an unexpected but irresistible appetizer!
menumusings.com
Crock Pot Beef and Broccoli -  don't we LOVE easy crock pot meals?!
menumusings.com
Chicken Cordon Bleu - perfect for date night and company!
menumusings.com
Blueberry lemon bars - ladies luncheon?  Baby showers?  YES!!!!  
menumusings.com

Written Method:
Begin by preheating the oven to 350F.  Prepare the eggplants by peeling strips of the skin about 1" wide off of them with a vegetable peeler.  Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise.  We are going to roast the flesh of the eggplant and want the heat to penetrate all the way through, so score the eggplant pulp in a crosshatch pattern, being careful to not cut through the skin.  This is also going to make it easier to remove the flesh after it has been roasted.  Brush each eggplant half with 1 tablespoon EVOO in a 9"x 13" casserole baking dish.   Bake the eggplant in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.

While the eggplant is roasting in the oven, let's start on the rest of our filling.  In a heavy skillet, begin browning the Italian sausage, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks over medium high heat. When the sausage is about halfway cooked, add the chopped onions.  When the onions are soft and mostly translucent, season the meat with 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano and 1 Tbsp minced garlic.  Adjust seasoning as needed.   Remove from heat when done.

Allow roasted eggplants to cool briefly to make them easier to handle.  Remove the pulp from the eggplants using a serrated tomato corer or a melon baller, leaving about a 1/2-inch shell intact.  Set the shells aside.  Coarsely chop the pulp and set aside in a medium bowl.  To the eggplant pulp, add chopped tomato.  Add in 1 cup of the cooked Italian sausage mixture.  You may choose to use more if you'd like, but that's how much I chose.  I set the rest aside for another application.  Add in 1/2 tsp kosher salt,  3/4 cup shredded mozzarella, 1/2 cup fresh basil that you have cut into thin ribbons, 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano,  and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes.  You might like to bump this up to 1/2 tsp if you would like a little more heat.  Mix in the two large eggs to the mixture and stir well to incorporate all ingredients.  

Spread 1/2 cup of the jarred pasta sauce over the bottom of the casserole dish.  Arrange the eggplant shells over the sauce.  Fill the shells equally with the cooked eggplant pulp/Italian sausage mixture. Top with remaining 1 cup of pasta sauce, spreading evenly to cover filling.  Sprinkle the tops of each eggplant using the 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs.  Tear the fresh mozzarella into pieces and top the eggplant halves.   Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano.  Bake eggplants in preheated oven until the cheeses are melted and just slightly browned, about 40 minutes. Garnish with small basil leaves to serve.

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