Stuffed Aubergines Italian Style is a vegan and vegetarian side dish packed with flavors. Homegrown aubergines are stuffed with homegrown grape tomatoes, garlic, capers, herbs and stale bread. Then sprinkled with breadcrumbs and drizzled with good e.v.o. oil and baked in the oven till soft, golden, and delicious.
Song of the day: Once Upon a Time in the West by Dire Straits.
I grew up in a small apartment in Rome on the 6th floor of a building surrounded by other buildings. A tiny terrace was our window on the world, but my mother kept it mostly shut, feeling it was too dangerous to have a child playing outside at such a height. My grannies lived on the 1st floor of the same building and I would spend with them most of my time after school or when I was not going to school. The 1st floor did not have a terrace on the front of the building, but in the back, overlooking a courtyard with a myriad of windows and noisy pigeons. It wasn’t my favorite spot. I loved to read in the living room, help grandma in the kitchen making fettuccine, and play dress up in their bedroom with her clothes and hats. And I loved going to the park to go on the swing. I used to love the swing and I never wanted to go back home.
My parents and grannies were from a small town one hour east of Rome, where they still own a house and a few pieces of land. Both houses, ours and my grannies, were in the ‘downtown’ of the small town, so no gardens or green grassy fields for me to roll on, nothing but old stone houses, and alleyways, ascents, and descents. In the summer we would go back to the countryside to spend a time there, I had friends and cousins to play with, while my father and grandpa spent their time tending the family vegetable gardens. Lucky for us, to be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor: lots of tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, aubergines, squash, onions, cicoria, green beans, herbs, winter squash, kale. Grandpa would also plant corn for his grandchildren, always a feast when it was ready to pick at the end of August. I would never go to the garden, I haven’t been a child and kid that liked to play with dirt or jump in the puddles or get dirty and messy. I never even liked walking barefoot in the house, let alone outside. I was always attentive not to ruin the pretty clothes I was wearing, clothes that a tailor would make for my mother and with the leftover fabric would make for me. But I still had a connection with the land and produce through seeing my father and grandfather and their pleasure when bringing back home the beautiful produce they proudly created and that we greatly enjoyed. I’ve always known and recognized the difference, in taste and flavor, between the vegetables we grew and the ones we bought at the grocery store.
Years later, my father is still tending the country garden, and I am still not inclined to get dirt in my hands and feet, okay maybe a little bit. In the summer we still go to the countryside and enjoy the many vegetables my dad has planted. This year, it has been an explosion of tomatoes, basil, onions, and aubergines. Not big, for lack of rain and too much heat, but they’re sweet and tender, and Loreto is helping my dad with the watering and the harvest. I haven’t been there, but have seen pictures, taken by Loreto, of a serene quiet space filled with beautiful edibles.
We wanted to highlight the organic vegetables, making a dish that was saturated with flavor and color and spoke of love. We utilized my father’s homegrown aubergines, grape tomatoes, and basil, a clove of garlic, some capers in sea salt for a taste of the Mediterranean, and a piece of stale rosetta, the bun typical of Rome that you see in the picture, with a nice rose shaped crust and not a lot of crumbs, a good drizzle of e.v.o oil, salt and pepper and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs (homemade as well by my father using dry bread).
With Loreto helping in the kitchen, we cut the aubergines, scoring them into cubes on the interior and scooping out the flesh, which was blended with the other ingredients to form a nice stuffing to be placed back into the void of the aubergines. When scoring the eggplant, make sure not to cut into the outer skin. We want to keep this firm to hold the stuffing in.
We kept everything raw to cook in the oven. The result, moist morsels of flavorful aubergines and tomatoes, exploding nothing but pure goodness and freshness. The capers offer a nice acidity and punch to spike the natural flavors of the vegetables, and the basil, adding its unmistakable aroma and infusion to the ensemble. The breadcrumbs and bread, offer a dichotomy of softness and crispiness, keeping our taste buds entertained.
We ate them scooping the interior leaving the shell on the plate. Some may like to cut that up and eat it, which would be fine too, but the skin of this vegetable is not something we usually eat in our family.
All in all, these Stuffed Aubergines Italian Style are a great way to use up some of the summer bounty. They are a great side but also hold enough substance to be a meal on its own, not forgetting that they were truly enjoyed.
Song of the day: Once Upon a Time in the West by Dire Straits.Print
- 4 small aubergines
- 1/2 cup stale bread, crumbled
- pinch oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced
- 12 grape tomatoes, washed and diced
- 1 Tbsp capers, halved
- a handful of fresh basil, hand torn
- e.v.o. oil
- breadcrumbs for topping
- Wash and slice the aubergines in half lengthwise, leaving the stem intact.
- Using a small knife, cut lengthwise and widthwise in a grid pattern then use a teaspoon to scoop out the aubergine flesh in a medium bowl.
- Drizzle the 8 halves with e.v.o. oil, season with salt and place in a baking dish.
- Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C).
- Dip the stale bread in water, add 1 Tbsp e.v.o. oil and a pinch of oregano, then crumble it using your hands.
- Add it to the cubed aubergines, together with the minced garlic, the halved capers, the diced tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, 2-3 Tbsp of e.v.o. oil and the hand torn basil and mix.
- With a table spoon fill the aubergine halves.
- Sprinkle with bread crumbs, drizzle with e.v.o. oil, add a basil leaf.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes or until fork tender and golden top.
- Serving Size: 6-8 side servings
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