Stuffed Eggplant Parmesan with Italian Sausage 

Ingredients(serves 4)

  • 2 (16 oz) eggplants
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (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

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.