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Beef-Stuffed Eggplant

If tomatoes are in season, instead of canned tomatoes, use 8 fresh plum tomatoes that you dressed with EVOO, fresh thyme, salt, and pepper and roasted at 325°F for 1 hour until they burst and the skins became lightly browned. This would also be great with lamb instead of beef.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants (pale-purple eggplant, if available)

  • Salt

  • 2 tablespoons EVOO, plus more for drizzling

  • Ground black pepper

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 1 small fresh chile, seeded and finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 cup beef orchicken stock

  • 1 (28- or 32-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes (look for DOP on the label)

  • A few leaves of fresh basil, torn

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

  • 3 tablespoons flour

  • 2 cups whole milk, warmed

  • Freshly grated nutmeg

  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Halve the eggplants lengthwise. With a small paring knife, score the flesh (without cutting through the skin) and cut around the edges of the eggplants, leaving a 1/4-inch-thick shell of flesh and skin. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon, leaving the eggplant shells for roasting.

Chop the eggplant flesh and season with some salt. Drain on a kitchen towel or paper towels.

Dress the eggplant shells with a drizzle of EVOO to coat the fleshy insides and season with a little salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F.

Heat 2 tablespoons EVOO (2 turns of the pan) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, breaking it up into crumbles as it browns. Add the eggplant flesh, onion, garlic, chile, and salt and pepper and cook until softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add the stock and stir. Crush up the tomatoes and add to the pan. Add the basil, then reduce the heat a bit and simmer to thicken.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the warm milk. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg and cook the sauce until thick enough to coat a spoon.

Fill the eggplant halves with the meat and eggplant mixture, dividing evenly. Pour some sauce over each eggplant half and top with a little Parm. Bake until bubbling and browned on top

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