Melanzane ripiene – Calabrian stuffed aubergines

Melanzane ripiene – Calabrian stuffed aubergine


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Aubergines are a quintessentially Mediterranean ingredient. In Calabria, they are the key player in a number of traditional preparations, from pastas to snacks, and from sides to one-dish meals. An example of the latter category are melanzane ripiene (stuffed aubergines). The recipe varies greatly from province to province. In the southern part of the region, for instance, it will call for a filling made with minced beef and pork, while in the part of the region that borders Basilicata, in the north, it takes on a humble filling made with stale bread and pecorino. Once stuffed, melanzane ripiene can then be shallow-fried or baked, then served in bianco or topped with tomato sauce. The version below is baked, features a plain bread and cheese stuffing and sports a lush tomato sauce to finish.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the vinegar, then ease in the aubergine halves and blanch for 5–7 minutes, until just softened. Drain and allow to cool on a plate, cut-side down
Once cool enough to handle, remove some of the flesh from the aubergines using a teaspoon, in order to hollow them out for the filling. Turn the aubergines cut-side down again
Squeeze any liquid out of the scooped-out flesh, mince it finely and set it aside
Heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the crushed garlic and allow it to infuse the oil for a couple of minutes. Next, add the aubergine flesh. Fry for 10 minutes, stirring often and scraping any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Once tender, remove from the frying pan and transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper
Add another spoonful of oil to the same pan and, when hot, add the passata. Cover and cook for 20 minutes over a medium heat, or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper and set aside
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6
Line a baking tray with baking parchment and place the aubergines on top, cut-side up
Soak the bread in some water and set aside for 10 minutes, to soften. Drain the bread, squeezing out any excess liquid, and crumble into a large bowl. Add the aubergine flesh, pecorino, parsley, eggs, salt and pepper and stir everything until well-combined. Use this mixture to stuff the aubergines
Top the stuffed aubergines with tomato sauce to cover and bake for 20 minutes, or until tender all the way through
Serve warm or at room temperature
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