In my prevalently Italian-American home growing up, the eggplant reigned supreme.
When we weren’t rolling meatballs, hand-cutting ravioli and gnocchi, or jarring tomato sauce, we were breading and frying up slices of eggplant grown in the backyard garden to make eggplant parmesan.
I’d try to sneak a few straight out of the frying pan before they were covered in sauce and cheese in the casserole dish – I couldn’t get enough of the crunch of the browned, crusty exterior!
And, luckily for me, Dad was on my side – he was my partner in crime, distracting an increasingly more annoyed Mom with hugs and kisses while the both of us continued to nibble.
Whatever way you enjoy it – as originally intended in a final dish or when it is forbidden by your mother – the eggplant is a versatile ingredient to use in many styles of mouthwatering dishes.
But I’m still stuck on those breadcrumb-coated memories…
I’ve already eaten far too many eggplant parmesan dishes in my childhood to last a lifetime, so this recipe for stuffed eggplant marches to the beat of its own healthy-ish drum, without losing the crisp breadcrumbs I know and love.
I add some breadcrumbs and grated cheese in this filling, but also save some of this mix to top each eggplant half before they visit the oven to bake.
And we all know what happens when panko breadcrumbs and cheese mingle together with a hot oven.
While the filling remains soft and succulent, the topping gets browned and crispy and crunchy and caramelized and toasted and, and, and…
And I need to make this recipe again… now! Join me for dinner, yes?
Mom won’t yell at you, promise!Print
A little tired of eggplant parmesan? Learn a new way to cook your aubergines with this recipe for stuffed eggplant with beef and vegetables.
- 2 medium eggplants
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 pound 80% lean ground beef
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano, divided
- 1/2 cup plain panko breadcrumbs, divided
- 1 large egg
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet or pan with aluminum foil and lightly coat with about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.
- Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving enough flesh lining the skin so that the halves will still holds their shapes when baked. Roughly chop the flesh of the eggplant that has been scooped out.
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Place the chopped eggplant in the skillet, and lightly season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is browned and tender, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and lightly season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very caramelized, about 5 minutes.
- Add the beef and another small sprinkle of salt into the pan with the onions and cook, stirring occasionally while breaking up the beef, until the meat is browned and nearly cooked through, about 5-8 minutes.
- Add the garlic, bell peppers, and tomatoes into the same pan. Continue cooking until everything is tender, another 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Transfer the eggplant and beef mixture into a large bowl. Add the basil, parsley, 3/4 cup cheese, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, and egg. Mix to completely combine everything together.
- Place the eggplant halves on the prepared baking sheet, and use about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to lightly brush the interiors. Sprinkle each half lightly with salt and pepper.
- Evenly divide the meat mixture between the eggplant halves, pressing down lightly. Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup cheese with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Lightly sprinkle the tops of each eggplant half with the breadcrumb mixture and drizzle lightly with the remaining olive oil.
- Tent the baking sheet with a large piece of aluminum foil, making sure it doesn’t touch the topping on the eggplant. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil, and bake for another 20 minutes uncovered.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Transfer each half to a dinner plate and serve immediately.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
- Category: Meat
- Method: Stovetop/Baking
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: eggplant, stuffed, beef, vegetables
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure
Preheat your oven to 375°F, and line one half-size baking sheet with aluminum foil or a silicone mat. Coat the foil with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Be sure to have extra aluminum foil on hand for covering the baking sheet later.
Wash and dry all of the produce.
Set out your salt and pepper. Freshly cracked is best!
Crack the egg in a small bowl and remove any shell fragments. Set out the ground beef.
Freshly grate the cheese – you can use Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, or another hard-aged Italian cheese. The medium-sized blades on a box grater will be perfect here.
Scoop out the interior flesh with a metal spoon, but leave enough lining the skin. You’ll want about a 1/4-inch-thick border of flesh. This ensures the eggplant will hold its shape as it is baking for a beautiful final presentation.
Step 2 – Cook the Eggplant Flesh
Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.
Place the chopped eggplant in the skillet, and season with a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is browned on the exterior and tender on the inside, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Set the skillet aside.
Step 3 – Cook the Onions, Meat, and Vegetables
While the eggplant is cooking, cook the onions in a large skillet.
Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very caramelized, about 5 minutes.
In the same skillet, cook the ground beef – the meat will absorb all the flavors remaining in the pan, and you won’t have to clean as many dirty dishes!
Add the beef along with another light sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring occasionally while breaking up the beef.
Continue cooking until the meat is browned and completely cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the garlic, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Continue cooking until everything is tender, another 5 to 8 minutes.
Step 4 – Mix the Filling
Place the cooked eggplant, cooked meat mixture, basil, parsley, 3/4 cup grated cheese, 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, and egg into a large bowl.
You can check for seasoning before adding the raw egg – mix in additional salt and pepper to your taste.
Mix everything together with a large spoon or spatula until the ingredients are completely and evenly combined.
Mix the remaining 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup cheese in a small bowl, along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper – this will be used for the topping.
Step 5 – Stuff and Top with Breadcrumbs and Cheese
Place the eggplant halves on the prepared baking sheet. It’s fine if they touch.
Lightly brush the interior of the eggplant halves with about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle each half with a little salt and pepper.
Divide the meat mixture and fill the halves, pressing down lightly. Top the meat with an even amount of the breadcrumb and cheese mixture. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the breadcrumbs.
Step 6 – Bake
Tent the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Do your best to leave some space between the foil and the tops of the eggplant – you don’t want the breadcrumbs to stick to the foil.
Transfer the baking sheet into the oven, and bake covered for about 30 minutes.
Carefully remove the aluminum foil, and bake for another 20 minutes uncovered to create a crispier crust. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Carefully transfer each half to a dinner plate.
Enjoy this savory creation all on its own, or…
Pour on Some Sauce!
You’ve already worked pretty hard to make this dinner – eating it as is will be perfect and so satisfying. There really is no need to do any more work in the kitchen.
But you might be dreaming about making a sauce to accompany the dish for another layer of flavor, and we might have some pretty tasty suggestions for you.
What sauce sounds the most delicious to you? Leave a comment below!
Let’s keep the meals rolling with more eggplant recipes – here are three more mouthwatering ideas to try next:
About Nikki Cervone
Nikki Cervone is an ACS Certified Cheese Professional and cheesemonger living in Pittsburgh. Nikki holds an AAS in baking/pastry from Westmoreland County Community College, a BA in Communications from Duquesne University, and an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she's not nibbling on her favorite cheeses or testing a batch of cupcakes, Nikki enjoys a healthy dose of yoga, wine, hiking, singing in the shower, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate.