An Italian, Middle-Eastern mash-up if you will. In a twist, this version of Sicilian eggplant dish is roasted on a sheet pan in the oven, so you don’t have to bother with any deep- or pan-frying. The tomato paste and cinnamon give it depth, the sherry vinegar lends brightness, and the raisins and brown sugar offer balance.
This variation on Italian caponata becomes a main course atop fluffy couscous and creamy goat cheese. Buy the freshest eggplant you can find, it should feel heavy and have no soft spots, and you won’t need to peel or salt it to pull out any bitterness. Because pine nuts are traditional in caponata, they’re the first choice, but they can be pricey so pepitas or chopped walnuts make fine substitutions. Finally, if you don’t like goat cheese, substitute ricotta or farmer cheese. But the cheese adds a welcome component, so don’t omit it.
Under the couscous, the goat cheese melts into a creamy, salty, tangy puddle.
G. Daniela galarza
NOTE: Leftovers may be refrigerated in covered containers for up to 4 days.
1 lb. Japanese or globe eggplant, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium yellow or red onion (8 to 10 oz.), chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium tomato (6 to 8 oz.), chopped
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp. light brown sugar or honey, or to taste
3/4 tsp. fine sea salt or table salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper, or to taste
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup raisins (any kind)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, pepitas or chopped walnuts
1/4 to 1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar, or to taste
For the Couscous
1 1/2 cups water or low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt or table salt
1 1/2 cups (about 9 oz.) couscous
3 oz. soft goat cheese, or more if desired
1/4 cup torn fresh basil, mint or parsley (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Add the eggplant, onion, bell pepper, tomato and garlic, and use your hands to toss everything together. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top, followed by the brown sugar or honey, salt, cinnamon and black pepper. Toss again, then spread into an even layer.
Roast for 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, using tongs or a spatula, flip and redistribute vegetables so they cook evenly. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through and browned.
Transfer the pan to a heatproof surface. Mash the garlic cloves into a paste. Push the vegetables aside to expose a small area of the hot metal and place the tomato paste on it. Using a wooden spoon, stir the tomato paste into the vegetables, followed by the raisins, nuts or seeds, water and vinegar; stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, adjusting with more vinegar, sugar, salt and/or pepper as desired.
Make the couscous: About 10 minutes before the eggplant is finished roasting, in a medium lidded saucepan over high heat, bring the water or stock, olive oil and salt to a rolling boil. Immediately pour in the couscous, ensuring it’s moistened throughout, then cover, remove from the heat and let it steam for about 5 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed.
To serve, portion about a quarter of the goat cheese into the center of each plate. Top with a pile of couscous and some of the caponata. Garnish with the torn herbs and more goat cheese, if desired.
Baked Stuffed Eggplant with Italian Sausage is described by Food & Wine as over-the-top stuffed dreamboats. Well “dreamboats” may be a stretch, but they were very good indeed! Ripe tomatoes and roasted eggplant come together to yield a hearty filling, made even better with the addition of Italian sausage (sweet or hot, your choice). Combined with a bright and lemony breadcrumb topping and a quick-fix tomato sauce jazzed up with fresh herbs, this makes a stunning summer main dish.
OK, first glance at the list of ingredients and I hear a few of you sigh an audible groan. But please don’t despair, yes the process is a bit time-consuming, but so worth it! Just be sure you have enough time on hand. It’s rare that we ever follow a recipe exactly due to inability obtain the needed ingredients, or because the amounts of some of those ingredients just don’t seem adequate.
For example, the smallest eggplants I could get were 10 ounces each, while the recipe called for smaller ones. Then, the original amount of sausage was only a 1/4 pound—barely a tablespoon per serving, so we doubled the amount to a 1/2 pound. Finally, the marinara sauce at only 8 ounces again seemed inadequate, so a 14-ounce jar was our choice; in which case the fresh herbs were increased to counterbalance the adjustments.
When it came time to cooking the eggplant and onion, I increased those cooking times because as noted at only 2 or 3 minutes, the veggies weren’t as far along as they should have been. All of our changes are noted below.
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (about 2 cups), plus more for garnish
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano, divided
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint, divided
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
14 oz. jarred marinara sauce
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium. Add breadcrumbs, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt; set aside.
Cut eggplants in half lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4-inch shell. Chop pulp into 1/2-inch thick cubes. Sprinkle eggplant shells with 1 teaspoon salt, and invert onto a clean, dry towel. Let stand 30 minutes to drain.
Preheat broiler to high with oven rack 5 to 6 inches from heat. Pat eggplant shells dry, and brush with 1 tablespoon oil. Place eggplant shells, cut side up, on a baking sheet, and broil just until tender, about 5 minutes. (I did this in two lots, 3 at a time.)
Remove from oven, and reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Place in a single layer in a 10- x 14-inch baking dish.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add sausage, and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon to break up large pieces, until sausage is browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a large bowl. Reserve drippings in skillet.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in skillet over medium-high. Cook reserved eggplant cubes in hot oil, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer tomato mixture to the large bowl with sausage. Add feta, 1/2 cup breadcrumb mixture, egg, 2 tablespoons oregano, 2 tablespoons mint, 2 tablespoons parsley, and vinegar; toss until combined. Divide mixture evenly among eggplant shells. Top evenly with remaining breadcrumb mixture, and place stuffed eggplants in oven. Bake at 375°F until filling is golden and bubbly, 25 to 30 minutes. (Because our eggplant were larger, I cooked them for 40 minutes.)
Meanwhile, stir together marinara sauce, remaining 1 tablespoon of the oregano, mint, and parsley in a small saucepan. Heat over low just until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Drizzle over baked stuffed eggplant just before serving. Sprinkle with remaining sauce and additional feta, if desired.
Don’t you just love one-pan meals? Here’s one from Milk Street that borrowed some of the flavors of Greek moussaka. Although a traditional Greek Moussaka recipe has luscious layers of juicy ground beef or lamb cooked in a tomato based sauce, layered with sweet eggplants and potatoes, topped off with a creamy béchamel sauce and baked until perfectly golden, this a fantastic riff.
Here, seared flank steak is finished with a rustic sauce-like side of eggplant, tomatoes, garlic and herbs. Crumbled feta cheese adds briny notes that contrast nicely with the sweetness of the vegetables and the richness of the beef. Crusty bread, rice or potatoes are good side dish choices if you’re not counting carbs.
We had both flank steak and flap meat in our freezer, and, you guessed it, I did’t realize until after the meat had thawed that I removed flap steaks. Both started with “fla” and that is all that I saw on the package so I’m giving myself an out that it was an easy mistake. In fact, since we prefer the beefy taste of flap meat, it was serendipitous! Please note that flap meat needs an extra couple of minutes in the pan to reach temperature.
Keep in mind, you don’t want to drain the juices from the tomatoes. The liquid helps form the sauce and prevents the eggplant from drying out so that the pieces become silky-soft. When slicing the flank steak for serving, make sure to slice it against the grain for the tenderest texture.
Absolutely delicious! We could wax poetic for days on what a wonderful dish it was!
recipe title=”Flank Steak with Tomato-Eggplant Ragu” servings=”4″ time=”35 min” difficulty=”easy”]
1½ lbs. flank steak or flap meat, trimmed, halved lengthwise, then crosswise
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 1b. eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks
14½ oz. can diced tomatoes
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped
1½ oz. feta cheese, crumbled (about ⅓ cup)
Season the steak with salt and pepper. In a nonstick 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the steak and brown on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes total (8-10 minutes for flap meat), flipping the pieces once. An instant-read thermometer should show 125° for medium-rare. Transfer to a moated cutting board and cover with foil.
In the same pan over medium-high, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the eggplant and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and softened, 5 to 6 minutes.
Reduce to medium and add the tomatoes with juices, the garlic, oregano and cinnamon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened and the eggplant has begun to break down, about 5 minutes.
Off heat, stir in any accumulated beef juices and half the mint. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Thinly slice the steak against the grain and place on a platter. Spoon the eggplant mixture on and around the steak, then sprinkle with feta and the remaining mint.
It’s not unusual that most of us would like to cut calories and fat where we can, but not loose flavor. With this riff on a Martha Stewart recipe, you bake rather than fry, for less mess and less fat. In addition, there is no salting of the eggplant to extract moisture—a process I’ve never grown fond of.
Another plus, make the chunky tomato sauce a day or two ahead and save time on dinner night. It only takes about 20 minutes total, then refrigerate in an air tight container, and you’re one step ahead of the game.
As we prepped the dish, we realized that a few tweaks to the recipe were needed. After coating the slices for one of the eggplants, we noted there would not be enough for all the remaining slices, so we quickly increased by about another 50%; while the amount of egg wash was spot on.
The shredded mozzarella was increased to 2 cups from 1 1/2, although we would even increase it more next time! The dried basil was swapped out for fresh, making sure to add it between layers as well as a garnish. One of those grocery store clamshells of basil is the perfect amount. These changes are noted in the ingredients below.
It was so light and tasty, The Hubs claimed it might be the best Eggplant Parm he’s ever had! Can’t wait to attack those leftovers… Serves 8 as a side dish, 6 as a main.
1 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus 2 Tbsp. for topping
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 oz. fresh basil, chopped to equal a loose 1/2 cup, save some whole leaves for garnish
2 large eggplants (2 1/2 lbs. total), peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
2+ cups shredded mozzarella
Tomato Sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Cook onion and garlic, stirring frequently, until translucent, 2 to 4 minutes. Crush tomatoes into pan; add oregano. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Make up to 3 days ahead.
Eggplant Parm: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil; set aside. In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and 2 tablespoons water. In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, 1 cup grated Parmesan, and oregano; season with salt and pepper.
Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then dredge in breadcrumb mixture, coating well; place on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown on bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Turn slices; continue baking until browned on other side, 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove from oven; raise oven heat to 400 degrees.
Spread 2 cups sauce in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant in dish; cover with 2 cups sauce, then 1 cup mozzarella and 1/2 of the chopped basil. Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, mozzarella and basil; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Here’s a lighter version of Eggplant Involtini that focuses on the eggplant. Baking instead of frying allows you to skip the salting and draining step, since the eggplant’s excess moisture evaporates in the oven, and it means that the eggplant’s flavor and meaty texture are not obscured by oil and breading. This was sooo good, we can’t wait to make it again!
Swapping the usual ricotta-heavy filling for one that’s boosted with a generous dose of Pecorino Romano means we can use less filling without sacrificing flavor. Lastly, make a simple but complementary tomato sauce in a skillet, add the eggplant bundles to it, and finish it under the broiler, which decreases the number of dishes required—always a plus in our book!
Of course we put our own spin on the dish, first by utilizing the pieces of eggplant cut away before planking them. What a waste it would be to discard all of that—about 3 cups worth! So we cubed those leftover pieces into about a 3/8″ dice and sautéed them in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil until softened before adding the tomatoes to the same skillet.
Now here comes the real twist. We added very thin slices of prosciutto on top of the eggplant slices before spooning on the cheese filling. Of course this step makes it no longer vegetarian, but that extra ingredient added even more depth of flavor. And we served ours with a side of gemelli pasta, which negates the low-carb factor, if you’re not concerned with that aspect.
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, hand crushed coarsely in their juices
1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
8 oz. whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 ½ oz. grated Pecorino Romano cheese
¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
4 oz. very thin slices of prosciutto, cut in half crosswise (optional)
Slice each eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick planks (you should have 12-15 planks). Trim rounded surface from each end piece so it lies flat.
Cut up those leftover rounded pieces into a 3/8″ dice and sauté them in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in your large skillet until softened, about 5 minutes.
Adjust 1 oven rack to lower-middle position and second rack 8 inches from broiler element. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and spray generously with vegetable oil spray. Arrange eggplant slices in single layer on prepared sheets. Brush 1 side of eggplant slices with 2 1/2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Flip eggplant slices and brush with 2 1/2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Bake until tender and lightly browned, 30 to 35 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cool for 5 minutes. Using thin spatula, flip each slice over. Heat broiler.
While eggplant planks cook, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the diced eggplant in same broiler-safe skillet over medium-low heat until just shimmering. Add garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in hand crushed tomatoes and their juice. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. Cover and set aside.
Pulse bread in food processor until finely ground, 10 to 15 pulses. Combine bread crumbs, ricotta, 1/2 cup Pecorino, 1/4 cup basil, lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl.
With widest ends of eggplant slices facing you, place a half slice of prosciutto, if using, on the wide end of each plank. Next, evenly distribute ricotta mixture on bottom third of each slice. Gently roll up each eggplant slice and place seam side down in tomato sauce.
Bring sauce to simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and broil until eggplant is well browned and cheese is heated through, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Pecorino and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil and serve.
The name of the dish is said to originate from the apocryphal exclamation by the Italian writer Nino Martoglio who, upon tasting the dish, exclaimed “This is a real ‘Norma‘!”, comparing it with the exceptional perfection of the Vincenzo Bellini opera Norma.
We obtained the recipe from Milk Street, but changed the penne pasta to gemelli, which gives a twist to the texture and captures more of the sauce in its curves. Feel free to use whatever pasta suits your fancy.
The eggplant is typically fried before being added to the sauce, but here it is roasted to concentrate the flavors and condense the porous texture. The eggplant is in the oven for about 30 minutes unattended, except for one toss; so use that time to prep the other ingredients, cook the pasta and simmer the tomatoes to make the sauce.
If you’ve never had ricotta salata, it is a firm cheese with a milky, salty flavor. Do not substitute fresh ricotta; a mild feta is a more appropriate substitute.
Don’t forget to reserve about ½ cup of the pasta cooking water before draining. You’ll need the starchy, salted liquid to help bring together the eggplant, pasta and sauce during the final simmer.
½ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 oz. ricotta salata, shredded
Heat the oven to 475°F with a rack in the upper-middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment.
In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 1½ teaspoons salt and 4 tablespoons of the oil. Spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and roast until browned and tender, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring once.
Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in the pasta and 2 tablespoons salt; cook until the pasta is al dente. Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.
While the eggplant roasts and the water heats, in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the tomatoes and 1½ teaspoons salt, then cover and cook, occasionally shaking the pan, until the tomatoes begin to release their liquid, about 1 minute.
Stir in the vinegar, then use the back of a large spoon to crush the tomatoes. Cover, reduce to medium and cook, stirring, until the mixture breaks down into a lightly thickened sauce, 8 to 9 minutes.
Add the drained pasta, eggplant and ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water to the tomatoes. Cook over medium, stirring constantly, until the sauce begins to cling to the pasta, 2 to 3 minutes.
Taste and season with salt. Stir in half of the basil and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining basil and the ricotta salata.
This pasta dish, loosely based on a sausage and eggplant ragù from Sicily, is ideal for summer because it uses in-season tomatoes and eggplant. In addition, the pasta is cooked directly in the sauce so there’s no need to heat up the kitchen with another large pot of boiling water. And it was hot as blazes the night we made this for dinner.
Hot Italian sausage adds a little spiciness, but I know many of my peeps out there in foodland can’t tolerate much “heat” so go ahead and use sweet sausage if that’s your preference. However, to be frank, it was just mildly spicy even with the hot version. In fact, we doubled the amount of meat to almost a pound (8 ounces seemed rather paltry). No need for us to remove casings because we bought it in bulk, which is a time-saver if your local grocery store sells it that way.
Don’t stir the tomatoes more than just once or twice after adding them to the pot. Uncovering to stir releases heat and slows the rate at which the tomatoes burst and release their juices. However, do make sure to stir regularly after the pasta is added to prevent the starchy noodles from sticking to the pot.
The sauce came out nice and creamy, and with the extra meat—OK, and a few more tomatoes—there was definitely plenty of leftovers.
Cavatappi with Italian Sausage, Tomatoes and Eggplant
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
2 Pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1 Small red onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
8 Oz. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 Qt. water
1 Lb. eggplant, peeled and cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 Lb. cavatappi pasta; or campanelle or gemelli
¾ Tsp. grated nutmeg
1 Cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn if large
Finely grated parmesan or pecorino romano, to serve
In a large pot over medium-high, combine the oil, tomatoes, onion and 1½ teaspoons salt. Cover and cook, stirring only once or twice, until the tomatoes begin to burst, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the sausage and cook, uncovered and using a wooden spoon to break up the meat and tomatoes, until the sausage is no longer pink, 2 to 3 minutes.
Stir in the eggplant. Add 1 quart water and bring to a boil. Stir in the cavatappi (or other pasta), nutmeg and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cover, reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and maintaining a vigorous simmer, until the pasta is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes.
Taste and season with salt and pepper, then stir in the basil.
Serve drizzled with additional oil and sprinkled with cheese.