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Stuffed Eggplant Sandwiches

Stuffed Eggplant Sandwiches

The Melanzane

You will enjoy this unique and delicious southern Italian recipe for Stuffed Eggplant Sandwiches. This recipe is great for lunch or dinner and not difficult to make.

Eggplant or melanzane is a common ingredient in many traditional southern Italian dishes.  Many dishes use eggplant as an ingredient such as common appetizers like caponata or pickled eggplant. Eggplant is used in many main courses like eggplant parmigiana, side dishes, and as a topping on pizza or pasta.  It would be quite surprising if an Italian restaurant, that serves southern cuisine, does not have an eggplant dish somewhere on their menu. 

The Multi-Cultural Berry

Many cultures around the world use eggplant in their recipes.  I love eggplant and many different cultures use it in their cuisine. Eggplant dishes can be found Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and Spanish cooking.

Many find eggplant to be an acquired taste for this wonderful berry—yes, eggplant is a berry!  Most refer to this bitter berry as a vegetable.  Thankfully, there is a method to draw out the bitterness. 

I have memories of my grandfather, early on a Sunday morning, salting sliced eggplant on a platter. He would set it aside for about an hour while he started the Sunday sauce.  Many Sundays, we enjoyed fried eggplant with a dollop of ricotta cheese on top of our pasta.  It was a satisfying meal that we usually ate mid-afternoon around 3:00 pm.

As a child I had no idea that this delicious goodness was called Pasta ala Norma. Pasta ala Norma is a classic Sicilian meal.  The Sicilian and the Neapolitan/Calabrian sides of my family both used this beautiful vegetable as an ingredient.

Unique Stuffed Eggplant Sandwiches

The eggplant recipe, I am sharing, is from the Neapolitan/Calabrian side of my family. My mother told me that this was her grandmother, Amelia’s recipe. This recipe is not the typical eggplant sandwich or ‘hero’ as we say here in New York. This eggplant ‘sandwich’ is unique.  The eggplant itself acts as the bread for a delicious stuffing in the middle. 

My great-grandmother served my great-grandfather and their eight children this inexpensive dish back in the early nineteen hundreds and it has been a family favorite for the generations that followed.  It’s my favorite meal next to stuffed peppers, a recipe I will share soon.

The Harvest Season

We are at the beginning of the harvest season. Make sure you take advantage of the abundance of reasonably priced produce at your local market, and buy some eggplant.  These eggplant sandwiches are a complete meal in each sandwich—vegetable, starch, and protein all-in-one. You can enjoy them with a side salad or with pasta—be sure to make extra marinara sauce if you are making pasta.  For the Marinara use my regular Marinara Sauce recipe or my Quick 20 minute Marinara Sauce recipe.

Check out this Stuffed Eggplant Sandwiches recipe that puts a twist to the traditional classic eggplant parmigiana dish.  It’s a different way to make eggplant, which I am sure will please all of the eggplant lovers in your family.   I have also created a lighter version of this recipe and it does not require any frying or use of breadcrumbs.  Try it, you’ll like it!

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Stuffed Eggplant Sandwiches

Ingredients

1-2 thin eggplants* (long and thin eggplants have less seeds are less bitter)
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs*
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. ground black pepper
Salt to taste*
1 cup grated cheese*
2 cups shredded mozzarella*
½ cup water
½ – ¾ cup of canola oil for frying (add more if needed)

Lighter Version Ingredients

*For a lighter version, use a 15 ounce can of chickpeas drained and rinsed instead of breadcrumbs. For dairy-free, use vegan grated parmesan cheese and shredded vegan mozzarella cheese.

Instructions

1
Preparation: Wash eggplants. Cut off a ¼ inch down from stem. Peel eggplants removing all the skin.
2
With the peeled eggplant lying horizontal on the cutting board, begin to slice the eggplant in ¼ inch slices.
3
The knife on the first cut should NOT go all the way down to the cutting board. Cut approximately three quarters of the way down.
4
For the next slice, cut all the way down. You will see that you have created a flap or pocket. This is where we will add our stuffing. Continue to make your eggplant pockets.If you are not frying the eggplant sandwiches before baking and choose to bake the eggplant before putting together the sandwich, proceed to cut eggplant in ¼ inch slices (do not create a pocket flap.)
5
Proceed with the traditional stuffing mix or the lighter version of the stuffing recipe.
6
Place sliced eggplant pockets OR sliced eggplant slices on a paper towel lined platter/ pan, sprinkle with salt cover with more paper towels or saran wrap. Set aside for about an hour.
7
During this time, make your marinara sauce and prepare the eggplant stuffing. When ready to bake eggplant slices or stuff your sandwiches before frying, be sure to dry eggplant slices beforehand.
8
Stuffing Mixture: In a mixing bowl, add breadcrumbs, garlic powder, black pepper, salt (if desired), grated cheese, shredded mozzarella, and water.
9
Mix thoroughly. You should have a stuffing consistency. Add more water if the mixture appears too dry.
10
Using a tablespoon, begin to stuff your eggplant pockets.
11
When all pockets are stuffed, set aside. *for a lighter version, swap ingredients using suggested ingredients listed above.
12
Putting together the eggplant sandwiches to bake : Pre-Heat oven to 350 degrees
13
In a 9 x 13-inch pan (or larger dependent on how many eggplant sandwiches were made), coat the bottom of your pan with a ladle of sauce.
14
Place your fried sandwiches on top of the sauce. Once the pan is full, top each eggplant sandwich with tomato sauce.
15
Add remaining mozzarella, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
16
Once done, let pan set for about 10-15 minutes before serving. If baking eggplant slices instead of frying, follow directions below for baked eggplant slices.

Eggplant ‘Sandwiches’ – Lighter Version

Pre-Heat oven to 375 degrees to bake eggplant slices before stuffing.

 Reduce oven temp to 350 once lighter version of eggplant sandwiches are ready to bake.

On a large baking sheet (use one baking sheet per eggplant), spray with pan with cooking oil (I use a Misto and add olive oil to the bottle).  Place eggplant slices (cut into individual circles – no flap) onto baking sheet.  Spray the tops of eggplant slices with oil. Bake for 8 minutes and turn each slice over using a spatula or tongs, spray the tops with oil spray and bake for another 7 – 8 minutes more.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Make the lighter stuffing mixture swapping breadcrumbs with chickpeas and use preferred cheeses. See above for stuffing mixture seasoning directions. To stuff the sandwiches, use each cooked eggplant slice as the bread and make a ‘sandwich’.  Follow the directions above for Putting together the eggplant sandwiches to bake.

 

Serve with spaghettini (thin spaghetti) tossed with marinara sauce and/or a side salad.  Pour a glass of wine and enjoy!

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