"Filled vegetables are very common in Italy and started off as “cucina povera” (poor man’s food) years ago in Italy when housewives would make a filling with whatever they had to make the meal go further. As with all “cucina povera” dishes they have over the decades become specialities and this is no exception. When I was a boy, we would often have filled aubergines during the summer when this popular Mediterranean vegetable was in abundance. Nowadays, especially in England, we can enjoy aubergines all year round and I often make this dish for a midweek meal served with a mixed green salad. Bertolli with Butter is perfect in this dish as it is used not only to sauté’ the vegetables but also helps to moisten and make the topping shine as it bakes in the oven."
Melanzane Ripiene (Stuffed Aubergines)
70g Bertolli with Butter & plus extra for greasing & dotting
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
40g grated parmesan
large handful of basil, finely chopped & a few leaves left whole to decorate
approx. 10 cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced
1. Preheat the oven to 200C (fan). Grease a large ovenproof dish.
2. Cut the aubergines in half lengthways to make 4 halves. Make an incision with a sharp knife about 5mm in around the edge taking care not to tear the skin. Carefully remove the pulp with a spoon, leaving behind aubergine 'boats'. Roughly chop the pulp.
* Tip: to do this quickly and easily, make lines horizontally and vertically with a sharp knife and you will obtain ready-cut cubes as you gently scoop out the pulp.
3. Heat Bertolli with Butter in a large frying pan, add the garlic and sweat on a medium heat for a minute. Add the chopped aubergine pulp, season with salt & pepper and stir fry for a minute or so until softened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
4. Break the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly, mixing in grated parmesan. Add the cooled aubergine mixture to this together with basil, breadcrumbs and 80g of finely chopped mozzarella.
5. Fill the aubergine shells with the mixture. Arrange tomato slices on top. Finely chop the remaining mozzarella into thin strips and arrange these and basil slices next to the tomatoes.
6. Dot with a little Bertolli with Butter, then cover with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Five minutes before the end of cooking time, remove the foil.
7. Remove from the oven, leave to rest for a couple of minutes, then serve with a green salad.