These Melanzane Ripieni (stuffed eggplants or eggplants refilled) are a very popular meal in southern Italy, but of course you will find versions of it all around Italy (and each region would claim theirs the best!). This recipe is my mum’s and is ‘Calabrese’ style (from Calabria south of Italy).
Essentially, eggplants are halved, inside flesh removed, both boiled and then it’s refilled with a mixture of mince meat, cooked eggplant flesh, breadcrumbs, grated pecorino cheese (sheep milk hard cheese), eggs and herbs. They are pan fried and then baked with tomato sugo.
You can make vegetarian style without the meat, but then don’t tell my mum I suggested that! Actually there are so many variations you can make to this recipe – it’s limitless! Add cooked rice; or lamb, roasted capsicum & feta; or why not try with couscous & chickpeas.
Eggplants are a perfect ingredient as they are so versatile – you can fry it, bake it, make it into dips, and it goes with so many other ingredients. Its shape and size is ideal for this recipe and resembles a boat once it sits served on your plant. Dish it up with a side of vegetable dishes such as green beans or roasted zucchini & capsicum. I love it with a leafy green salad and a glass of pinot noir.
You will find it hard not to go back for seconds, but if by some chance you don’t (you’re very disciplined), they will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days and taste even better the next day reheated as the flavours develop further with time.
It is truly a delicious meal and one of my favourite from growing up. It’s easy and just takes a little time!
These Melanzane Ripieni (stuffed eggplants or eggplants refilled) are a very popular meal in southern Italy, but of course you will find versions of it all around Italy (and each region would claim theirs the best!). The recipe I have provided for you today is my mum’s recipe and is ‘Calabrese’ style (from Calabria south of Italy).
20 minPrep Time
1 hr, 20 Cook Time
1 hr, 40 Total Time
4 each Eggplants
1 each Brown Onion, large
2-3 each Garlic cloves
500g Minced beef or veal
2 cups Breadcrumbs (fresh is best)
2 whole Eggs
120g Pecorino cheese, grated
1 cup Flat-leaf parsley, chopped
700g Salsa di Pomodori (tomato sauce/sugo)
Freshly ground black pepper
- Prepare the eggplants – remove the stalk and cut in half. Scoop out some to the flesh and reserve, leaving at least a 1.5 cm thick shell.
- Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Then add a good pinch of salt and the reserved eggplant flesh and cook for 7-8 mins or until soft.
- Remove the eggplant with a slotted spoon and drain well, squeezing out any excess water. Keep the saucepan of water. Set aside the cooked eggplant reserve and leave to cook slightly, then mash.
- Bring the saucepan of water back to the boil and add the eggplant shells. Cook for 7 mins or until just soft. Remove from the water and drain well. Leave to cool slightly while you prepare the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 200c.
- Heat 2 tlbsp olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and cook for 3 mins or until the onion is translucent. Leave to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, combine the mashed eggplant reserve and the onion mixture with the minced meat, breadcrumbs, eggs, 80g of the pecorino and the parsley, then season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly to ensure all the ingredients are well combined; the mixture should be soft but not too wet or too dry (add extra breadcrumbs if it is too wet or add some water if the mixture feels too dry).
- Stuff each eggplant shell with one-eighth of the mince mixture, ensuring they are tightly packed.
- Heat a large ovenproof frying pan with enough olive oil for shallow-frying over medium heat. Fry the eggplant in batches for 2-3 mins on each side until brown (start with browning the stuffed mixture side first), adding more oil to the pan if needed.
- Arrange the stuffed eggplant in a baking dish or ovenproof pan, stuffing-side up, and pour the salsa di pomodori over the top, ensuring the eggplant is completely covered.
- Sprinkle the remaining pecorino over the top. Bake for 40-50 mins or until cooked through.