Hubby and I love eggplant and eat it quite often. Hubby’s fav is oven fried eggplant (remember Lasagna Sauced Eggplant? ) and mine is eggplant parmesan. This week, we had a chance to dine out with some friends at a local Italian restaurant where every entrée is served with a side of pasta and sauce. Great for me for I love my pasta and our friends were dieting so I was “gifted” with their pasta sides, too. A win win for me! As I finished up my Eggplant Parmesan, I realized I had two sides of pasta going home with me. First I thought, yeah, lunch for the next two days then I thought, no wait, dinner tomorrow night.
Stuffed eggplant is such a simple dish. I guess that’s why I am so shocked by the price of some stuffed eggplants on restaurant menus. Even if the eggplant is filled with seafood, it just doesn’t require much filling to have an overflowing eggplant shell to justify the cost. It is this rationalization that has led me to never order stuffed eggplant at a restaurant. Once you start making stuffed eggplant at home, you may never order any out either.
Leftover Spaghetti Stuffed Eggplant: Leftover spaghetti is inevitable, after all, ever see small pots of spaghetti and sauce simmering away on the stove? Whenever I have leftover spaghetti and meatballs, I always enjoy making my calzones but today I was just as excited to stuff the eggplant. Eggplant is such a good vehicle for leftovers so I knew it would work for not only the leftover pasta, but also for the leftover steamed broccoli in the fridge and the 1 link of frozen hot sausage in the freezer.
Let’s get started: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the eggplant in half lengthwise. Use a melon baller to scoop out flesh of eggplant leaving a small amount around edges forming a shell. You can use a paring knife, but I find the melon baller safer and easier. Rub the inside of the shells with olive oil and dice the eggplant flesh. We like our eggplant al dente, or firm to the bite. If you like your eggplant a little softer, flip over the shells and put into 350 degree oven for 10 minutes before filling.
In a skillet over medium high heat, drizzle olive oil and sauté 1/4 cup of frozen seasoning or chopped onions and 1 minced clove of garlic until wilted, about 3 minutes. I’m adding sausage, so I remove casing from Italian sausage link and crumble into pan and cook until no longer pink. Add in the diced eggplant and sauté for 5 minutes. Add in 2 TBSP red wine or beef broth (or 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar). Stir to get any browned bits from bottom of skillet. Simmer 1 minute. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup leftover pasta, 1/2-3/4 cup leftover veggies, 1/2 cup Ricotta cheese, and 2 TBSP grated Parmesan cheese.
Put your TO COOK IS TO CREATE thinking cap on: Think about other leftover pasta dishes that would be good stuffed into eggplant. I love shrimp fettucine with some added crawfish tails. For white sauced pasta, I like to use white wine or chicken broth. Think about any cheeses you have on hand. Mozzarella put over the top the last 5 minutes would definitely make it taste like eggplant parmesan or add your favorite cheese into the filling. What other meats do you have? Pepperoni, salami, leftover hamburger patty, meatballs, rotisserie chicken? What other vegetables? Remember it doesn’t take much to fill an eggplant. What about adding in some favorite pizza toppings? Mushrooms, black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, green peppers? Think about what flavors are already in the leftover pasta and add to it. Want to dress up the stuffed eggplant even more? How about adding warm alfredo or marinara sauce over the top of the finished eggplant?
FOOD FUN: Did you know that eggplants are not really vegetables? They are actually fruits and are classified botanically as berries! Thomas Jefferson is believed to have brought the first eggplants to the U.S. Sure he would be proud to know there is an annual eggplant festival held every October in Loomis, California-25 years this year. Why Loomis? In the early part of the 20th century, Loomis was one the largest fruit-shipping stations in the area. One of the big draws to the festival besides eating all things eggplant are the free eggplants given away. Sound like hubby and I may need to put this festival on our list.