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Sardinian Stuffed Eggplant
© Quentin Bacon

Sardinian Stuffed Eggplant

  • ACTIVE: 1 HR
  • TOTAL TIME: 2 HRS
  • SERVINGS: 6
  • MAKE-AHEAD
  • STAFF-FAVORITE

Efisio Farris, the executive chef at Arcodoro in Houston, says that his mother used only eggplants from the first pick of the season (le primizie) for this dish because of their supple texture and earthy-sweet flavor without a hint of bitterness. But if you don't have the primizie option, you should seek out firm, heavy eggplants with smooth, evenly colored skin. Check for ripeness by pressing them lightly; if this leaves an imprint, the eggplant is ready to use.

Plus: More Vegetable Recipes and Tips

  1. Five 1-pound Italian eggplants, 3 halved lengthwise
  2. Kosher salt
  3. Extra-virgin olive oil
  4. 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  5. 2 small bay leaves, crushed to a powder
  6. 1/2 cup dry white wine
  7. 1/2 pound ground veal
  8. 1 cup freshly grated fresh pecorino cheese, preferably Fiore Sardo (4 ounces)
  9. 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  10. 1/2 cup plain, dried bread crumbs
  11. Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  12. 1 tablespoon chopped basil
  13. 1 tablespoon chopped mint
  14. Freshly ground pepper
  15. 3 garlic cloves, thickly sliced
  16. One 35-ounce can Italian peeled tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
  1. Peel the whole eggplants; coarsely chop the flesh and transfer to a large colander. Using a spoon, scoop the flesh from the eggplant halves, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell. Chop the scooped out eggplant flesh and add it to the colander. Toss the chopped eggplant with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and let drain for 30 minutes, then rinse well. Working in handfuls, squeeze out as much of the water as possible. You should have about 4 cups of chopped eggplant.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Set a wire rack on a baking sheet. Add the 6 eggplant shells to the pot and cook, gently poking them under to keep them submerged, until just tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggplant shells to the wire rack to drain and cool. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and arrange the eggplant shells in it, cut sides up.
  3. In a large, deep skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and bay leaves and cook over moderate heat until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant and wine and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and just beginning to brown, 15 minutes. Add the veal and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up the meat, until cooked through and lightly browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the eggplant filling to a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of the pecorino, the eggs, bread crumbs, nutmeg, basil and mint. Season the filling with salt and pepper. Spoon the filling into the eggplant shells.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat until golden, about 1 minute. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon half of the sauce over the eggplants and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of grated pecorino. Bake the eggplant until browned and bubbling, about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve, passing the remaining tomato sauce on the side.
Make Ahead The baked stuffed eggplant can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature then reheat in a 325° oven.

Suggested Pairing

Eggplant—particularly one stuffed with tomatoes, pecorino and garlic—demands a hearty red wine. Look for an earthy Sardinian red.

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