Sicilian Stuffed Eggplant

After a beautiful Harvest weekend in Sonoma, I’m having a hard time finishing this post. I spent this past weekend tasting delicious Italian wines and oogling over the changing vine colors and rolling golden hills in wine country.  Saturday I enjoyed a breathtaking group hike at Seghesio Vineyards with their winemaker, and later sipped my way thru some Sicilian gems at home to find inspiration in the kitchen! My heart goes out to all of those affected in Northern California.

Back in August, my husband and I made our annual food and wine trip to Italy. Guys…I seriously need new pants already. I can’t stop trying to recreate my new favorite dishes! Today, I bring you stuffed eggplant.

Growing up in Buffalo, I’ve always loved Italian food (well, what we grew up thinking was Italian food). One of my first high school jobs was in an Italian bakery.  We baked fresh, hot bread onsite, which we dipped in warm marina and devoured when no one was looking. We were a cheese and charcuterie lover’s dream with a variety of imported meats and cheeses. We stocked the shelves with old world favorites, bringing little Italian grandmothers flocking in during the holidays. YUM. The Italian restaurants in Buffalo serve heavy comfort food in hearty portions. Stuffed peppers, antipasti, Piccata, Saltimbocca, and ooey, gooey, cheesy everything. Veal, Chicken, Spaghetti – anything could be turned into a melted Parmesan delight.

But back to the eggplant. I never cared much for eggplant, mainly because I only experienced it sloggy and breaded, slathered in sauce and cheese. Sunday sauce and meatballs will be my last meal on earth, HANDS DOWN, if I’m lucky enough to have a say. But eggplant is now in the running. I can’t stop thinking about new ways to cook it! Eggplant is so versatile and combines well with so many different flavors. I went to the farmer’s market over the weekend and somehow ended up with 5 purple beauties. FIVE! My husband and I are eaters, but that was a bit aggressive, even for us.

This recipe will easily feed 4 people, but it holds up really well if you want leftovers. I only used 4 of the eggplants, but you can easily increase or decrease the ingredients.

**Pro-tip. Make sure you allocate the right amount of time for eggplant prep. You really don’t want to skip the eggplant salt bath – it sucks the bitterness out of the vegetable. Give yourself a good 30-40 minutes to cut, salt, and rinse the eggplants.**

Finally, this recipe includes a quick tomato sauce prepared while the eggplant is cooking. I happened to have some leftover sauce already prepared from this Sunday Sauce recipe, which saved a few minutes and added great flavor! I hope you enjoy.

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  • 4 medium eggplants, 2 peeled
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • Bunch of basil, chopped (about 2-3 Tbsp, loosely packed)
  • Olive oil
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • (1) 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes OR about 2 pounds fresh tomatoes
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 2-3 Tbsp of salt for the eggplant bath

Kitchen Gadgets

  • Large colander
  • Cutting board
  • 9×13 baking dish
  • Large fry pan or skillet
  • Medium sauce pan for
  • Medium to large pot for boiling water


  1. Chop the two peeled eggplants into cubes, about a 1/2 inch each. Place in the colander and set aside. Take the 2 remaining eggplants, and cut the stems off the top. Cut both eggplants in half the long way.
  2. Carefully with a knife, carve the flesh out of the eggplants, leaving a 1/4 to a 1/2 inch wall.  You want to leave enough flesh remaining so that the eggplant shells hold their shape, like an oblong bowl.
  3. Chop the remaining eggplant pieces scooped from the 4 eggplant shells and add them to the colander. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt on the chopped eggplant and let sit, 20-30 minutes.
  4. While the eggplant is resting, start preparing the sauce. Chop the yellow onion, and set aside half for the eggplant mixture. Add about 2 Tbsp olive oil to a saucepan over medium heat. Then add the onions, and saute until fragrant and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and saute another 2-3 minutes.
  5. If using canned tomatoes, stir in the whole can, crushing and de-stemming the tomatoes with your hands. Skip step 6.
  6. If using fresh tomatoes, using a paring knife to remove the core from the top of each tomato. Peeling your tomatoes is optional. I prefer to do so. If peeling, I suggest blanching the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds to make them easier to peel. The sauce will be chunkier, but still delicious if you skip the peeling. Just roughly chop the tomatoes into small chunks and add them to the pot with the sauteed onions and garlic.
  7. Let sauce simmer and stir occasionally. It doesn’t take more than 20-25 minutes for the sauce to cook down.
  8. While the sauce simmers, boil a pot of water. Submerge eggplant shells for 3 minutes, just long enough to soften. You still want the shells walls firm enough to stand up.
  9. Remove the shells from water and lay upside down to dry on a paper towel.
  10. Add 2-3 Tbsp olive oil to the large fry pan over medium heat. Add the remaining half of chopped onion and the oregano. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  11. Rinse the salt off the chopped eggplant and use paper towels to squeeze the water out in batches.
  12. Add the eggplant and wine to the onions. Saute 10 to 15 minutes until the eggplant is soft and cooked through.
  13. Then add the ground beef. Break up the meat with the spoon and stir frequently to combine the beef and the eggplant. Continue until meat and eggplant begin to brown. Turn off the pan and remove from heat.
  14. Place eggplant shells into a 9×13 baking pan, facing up.
  15. Turn oven on to 375 degrees.
  16. Whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add in 3/4 cup of the cheese, half the basil, and a pinch of both salt and pepper. Pour the mixture, along with breadcrumbs, over the eggplant and meat. Stir constantly so that the mixture gets coated evenly.
  17. Immediately scoop the mixture into the eggplant shells, before the eggs cook through. I had some leftover stuffing, which I finished cooking in the saute pan and saved. The stuffing is delish on it’s own, and probably would be awesome over pasta.
  18. Add the remaining basil to the sauce and remove from heat.
  19. Pour some tomato sauce over each stuffed eggplant. Make sure to save some of the sauce for serving. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over each eggplant half and put the pan in the oven.
  20. Bake for 20-25 minutes. I like to switch the oven over to broil for the last 2 minutes to get a nice brown crust on top.
  21. Serve while warm with the remaining sauce on the side. I paired this with a delicious, smooth Sicilian red wine. Enjoy!

Chicken Sausage and Kale Stew

Oh, the domesticated life. If I’m not recovering from weekend shenanigans, Sundays are food prep days. I build a tentative meal plan for the week. Not only does it prevent anxiety while standing in the zoo I call Whole Foods, but it helps me stick to a budget.  I try to plan my meals around what’s in season and what looks good at the farmer’s market. After a little brainstorming, drooling over Pinterest, and stalking foodies on Instagram, I have a 5-star weekday menu.

Then life sets in and my carefully curated meal planning is a laughable dream. Between work, errands, squeezing in a workout, or a happy hour with friends, I somehow never get home before 7pm. This stew is my GO-TO meal when all I want is my bed and I don’t want to waste the money or calories on take-out. A 30-minute meal that really only takes 30 minutes? HALLELUJAH.

This recipe calls for literally 6 ingredients (plus seasoning) and is so. f*cking. good. I probably make this once a week during the winter in a few different variations and get two big thumbs up from the hubs. It’s pretty versatile – I usually use pre-cooked chicken sausage, and it’s good with lots of different flavors/brands. This week I used Trader Joe’s Garlic and Herb, but I also like it with Spicy Italian for a little kick or Basil & Sundried Tomato.

*Pro tip: Double the batch. These make great leftovers, especially when the flavors get to sit together overnight. Your co-workers are going to be jealous.*



  • (1) 12 ounce package pre-cooked Italian or Garlic & Herb chicken sausage, links sliced
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, quartered and sliced
  • 2-3 cups Lacinato/Dino Kale, rinsed, stems removed, and chopped
  • 32 ounces chicken stock
  • 1 can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • (1) 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, partially drained
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp dried Italian seasoning (If you don’t have an Italian spice mix, you can make your own variation. I usually mix Oregano, Basil, Marjoram, Thyme, and Rosemary).
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pecorino Romano or Parmesan to sprinkle on top (optional)

Kitchen Gadgets

  • Medium to large pot
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife


  1. Pour olive oil in pan and warm over medium heat. Add onions chicken sausage. Saute until the onions are soft and translucent and the chicken sausage has started to brown. Usually about 7-8 minutes.
  2. Add in chopped Kale and stir. Let saute for 1-2 minutes, so the kale starts to soften. Pour the chicken stock and cover the pot.
  3. Let saute, covered, for 15 minutes. By then, kale should be wilted and cooked down.
  4. Uncover, and stir in cannellini beans.
  5. Add in San Marzano tomatoes. I use whole tomatoes in a can. I crush them by hand into the stew, removing the stems.
  6. Cover the stew again, and simmer for 5 more minutes to allow flavors to combine.
  7. It’s ready to serve! A little grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese sprinkled on top makes my heart sing, but this is delightful without if you are dairy free.

That wasn’t so painful, right?


Check back later in the week and see what else I’m cooking up! Thanks for visiting!

Sunday Sauce with Meatballs

Guys, tomato season is my JAM. I put tomatoes in just about anything – sauces, soups, scrambled eggs, salads, you name it. Fresh tomatoes can shine as the star of a meal, or as supporting actor in a side dish.

As tomato season rounds down, it’s fitting that my first ever post is for fresh Sunday Sauce. This is such a treat in our house – even when we eat it every week! I’m making a huge batch so we have some to freeze and enjoy into the winter months. In a few weeks, I’ll post my “winter” sauce recipe – which is more of a traditional Sunday gravy with canned tomatoes and simmering meat.

Growing up in my house, we had Sunday dinner as a family. Whether cooked at home or enjoyed out at a restaurant, we spent dinner it together. My husband’s family is Italian and they have sauce every Sunday as a family. So when we moved to San Francisco 4 years ago, Rob and I continued the family Sunday tradition! Now we share it with our friends and family on the west coast.

And let. me. tell. you. The produce in California is out of this world. We are so lucky to have dozens of tomato varieties at the local farmer’s markets. You can make this sauce with lots of common tomato varieties you can find at the grocery store like Roma or Plum – even heirloom tomatoes. I went all out and got a big flat of Early Girl tomatoes (my beloved Momotaro tomatoes are done for the season) – and then added another 4 pounds because this stuff is crack. (Seriously, this time of the year it looks like I’m canning for a bomb shelter with all the tomatoes I hoard.)


*Pro tip – sometimes you can find bags of overripe tomatoes on sale. If you plan to make sauce within 24 hours, BUY THESE. They have an extremely short shelf life but are often full of flavor and sweetness.*

There are three things I love about this sauce, besides getting to eat it. First, it’s super easy. As long as you have patience, you have to TRY to mess this up. The ingredients are simple – but the longer you let the sauce simmer and cook down, the more delicious and thick it becomes (it’s even better after it’s been resting a few days!). You don’t really have to measure anything, and it’s easy to substitute ingredients depending on your taste. This is a perfect recipe during football season when my husband BECOMES the couch all Sunday.

Second, it’s super versatile. I use it on its own as a traditional sauce with meatballs (recipe also included below), but you can use as a base for other dishes like bolognese, chicken/eggplant parmesan, or in lasagna. I even switched up the ingredient ratio last week and roasted the tomatoes first for roasted tomato basil soup. F*ck yes.

Finally, this doesn’t require any fancy kitchen gadgets. All you need is a cutting board, knife and a few pots and pans. Because I sometimes make large batches, I use a manual tomato press that skins and removes most of the seeds. But you can easily peel the tomatoes and scoop the seeds out by hand – it just takes longer. I actually prefer the chunkier sauce that comes from crushing the tomatoes by hand, and continue to make it this way once in a while.

BTW friends – the meatballs are an ode to my mother in law, who to the day still makes the best meatballs in America. This recipe is modified from hers – can’t take all of the credit for the joy they bring!

I hope you enjoy, and keep checking back for upcoming recipes!


Sunday Sauce

  • 10 pounds of fresh ripe tomatoes (Roma, Early Girl, San Manzano are great options)
  • 2 large sweet or yellow onions, diced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine – I’m partial to a wine like Chianti or Montepulciano
  • 7-8 basil leaves
  • Tomato Paste (optional for thickness)
  • Bunch of parsley (for garnish)
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for serving


  • 1.5 pounds of ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 – 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1 generous cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp water

Kitchen gadgets:

  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Tomato knife (optional for cutting overripe tomatoes)
  • 2 large pots
  • Tomato press (optional if not crushing tomatoes by hand)
  • Fry pan
  • Mixing bowl


  1. Chop the onions and mince the garlic. Set aside.
  2. Pull any stems off tomatoes and cut a shallow X across the bottom of each tomato. Just enough to pierce the skin.
  3. Fill the first pot up halfway with water and turn on high to boil. This will be for blanching the tomatoes.
  4. Heat the second pot (used for sauce) over medium heat. Add the olive oil and chopped onions and saute until the onions are translucent, usually 8-10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  5. Add garlic to onions and saute another 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add salt and pepper, stir, and saute another minute.
  6. Add wine and stir to make sure the onions and garlic are mixed in.
  7. While onions and garlic continue to cook down, gently drop the tomatoes in the boiling water in batches. Don’t leave the tomatoes in the boiling water longer than 30-45 seconds – you don’t want to actually cook them. Blanching the tomatoes helps the skin peel off easily. This step is extremely important, mainly to save you time. I once tried to skip this step because I thought really ripe tomatoes would peel easier. BAD idea. Took me 2 hours longer than usual.
  8. If using a tomato press, follow the manufacturer instructions. Mine suggests chopping the tomatoes into one-inch pieces and pressing them in batches. I usually press each batch 3-4 times because a lot of the good tomato flesh can still be stuck to the skins on the first or second press. Pour the tomato puree into the sauce pot with onions and garlic.
  9. If crushing by hand, peel the skins off the tomatoes. They should peel pretty easily. Chop tomatoes into quarters and scrape out the seeds in each quarter. Crush each quarter individually into the pot. Repeat with each tomato, occasionally stirring the sauce.
  10. Let the sauce simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. The cook time can vary depending on the temperature, humidity and juiciness of tomatoes. The sauce will significantly cook down, sometimes to as much as half of the original volume. Depending on how thick you like your sauce, you may want to let simmer an extra hour or two. If the sauce is still too thin for your liking, add tomato paste to thicken.
  11. Serve with the meatballs and your favorite kind of pasta and fresh parsley and cheese sprinkled on top.

The Meatballs

  1. I like to prepare the meatballs just before serving dinner in the summer/fall. With my winter sauce, I like to drop the meatballs into the sauce so they can finish cooking in it – they add a great depth of flavor. But with this fresh tomato sauce, I like my meatballs a bit crispier, right out of the fry pan and into the bowl. There is something about tangy, fresh sauce and a rich juicy meatball held together with fresh pecorino that just makes my heart flutter! It’s the closest I can get to a true Roman pasta house in my own kitchen.
  2. Turn fry pan onto medium-high heat and add olive oil.
  3. Combine all of the remaining ingredients into a big mixing bowl. Squeeze gently by hand to mix. Be careful not to overmix – it can cause the meatballs to be tough and hard.
  4. Grab a scoop of the mixture, enough to create a meatball the size of a golf ball. Gently roll around in your hands to make the meatball and set in fry pan. Repeat with the remaining mixture (may need to do in batches depending on pan size).
  5. Slide a fork under each meatball and flip when browned, approximately 3-4 minutes on each side. Brown on multiple sides or until fully cooked, about 8-10 minutes total per meatball.
  6. Serve with Sunday Sauce.

*Another Pro Tip: After meatballs are cooked, pour a little of the grease from the fry pan into the sauce to add a little flavor complexity. The grease also helps the sauce stick to the pasta when served.

Don’t forget to leave a comment or review after you try this! Thanks for visiting. 🙂