Stuffed Eggplant Parm: A Quick and Healthy Twist
Confession: Classic Eggplant Parmesan is something I have never cooked at home. While I love the crunch, ooze, and tang of the traditional version, which originally hails from Southern Italy, it’s too fussy and not as nutritious as I like for everyday eating. Enter this quick and healthy Stuffed Eggplant Parm. It’s my lighter, everyday spin on a beloved dish that takes under 20 minutes of hands-on-time and is a new favorite everyday main.
Baking the Eggplant to Perfection
The first step is to cut your eggplant in half lengthwise and get it in the oven to bake. The idea is to cook it until the vegetable is very tender and it’s juices begin to appear across the top. The recipe calls for medium-size conventional Italian-style eggplant, but you could use a smaller eggplant or different variety if you like (mini eggplant parm on fairytale eggplant would be awfully cute, no?). You’ll just have to scale down the cooking time and number of eggplant when using a smaller or thinner variety.
Top Your Stuffed Eggplant Parm with Ease
Since the whole point here is ease, all you do is brown ground turkey or chicken in a skillet, then add bottled marinara sauce. That’s it. Of course, you can use your own homemade sauce, but for weeknight cooking I almost always have bottled Rao’s in my cupboard. For a plant-based version, use two cups of cooked cannellini beans instead of ground turkey.
Crunchy and Cheesy Goodness
Once you spoon your meat sauce over the eggplant, finish each one with grated cheese. I prefer sharp Cheddar to the more traditional Mozzarella, but feel free to go the traditional route if that’s your preference. Then, finish the whole thing with a little Parmesan cheese followed by Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (essential for the requisite crunch).
Serving Suggestions for Eggplant Parmesan
This eggplant is essentially a one-dish meal. That said, I’d recommend serving it with a warm, crusty baguette or whole-grain levain, since the mashup of ingredients is begging to be sopped up with bread. A bright, leafy salad with this dressing would also pair well for a complete meal. A few other thoughts:
- I figure two eggplant halves is about right if serving as a main course. Kids and those with smaller appetites might be happy with one half.
- This would also be a nice option on a buffet, say a spread of Italian favorites, in which case you might figure 1/2 eggplant per person.
- If taking a meal to a friend, this is a good bet, since it transports and reheats with ease.
- For gluten-free friends, use gluten-free panko and season it with 1 teaspoon each Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and a big pinch kosher salt.
If you like this Stuffed Eggplant Parm, you might like:
Weeknight Stuffed Eggplant Parmesan
I consider this Stuffed Eggplant Parm a lighter, easier version of the Italian classic. It's a dish you can manage in under 20 minutes of hands-on cooking time and is excellent served with crusty bread and a leafy salad on the side.
- 4 medium eggplant (about 12 ounces each)
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the eggplant
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground turkey or ground chicken (or 2 cups cooked white beans)
- 2 cups bottled or homemade marinara sauce
- 2 cups coarsely grated sharp Cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup Italian seasoned panko or breadcrumbs (or plain panko with 1 t Italian seasoning blend, 1/4 t garlic powder, a big pinch salt)
- Olive oil cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Cut the stem off each eggplant and cut in half lengthwise. Lightly brush the cut side of each eggplant with olive oil and season with salt and a dusting of freshly ground black pepper. Bake until the eggplant begins to appear juicy and is quite soft (you can slide the tip of a knife right in), about 1 hour.
While the eggplant bakes, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high. When the oil is hot, swirl it around the pan, then add the ground turkey. Cook until the turkey is done, stirring it regularly and breaking it into crumbles. Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and remove from heat. (If you want a little spice in your sauce, add a few pinches of red chili flakes).
When the eggplant is done, spoon the marinara sauce over each half. Sprinkle the Cheddar and Parmesan over the top, followed by the Italian breadcrumbs. Lightly spray the breadcrumbs with the olive oil cooking spray (no worries if you don't have oil spray it in your pantry).
Bake until the cheese melts and the topping begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. You can put it under the broiler at the very end to brown further, if desired.