This recipe started out as a thought and a wonder. Last weekend was quite busy with family affairs and come Sunday night I hadn’t prepped any food, or done my grocery shopping for that matter. I had some cauliflower and a few potatoes and frozen peas so decided it would be a homemade Indian Buffet kind of week. A quick stop for some eggplant and tomatoes and I was all set to add a favorite, Baingan Bharta, to the mix. Baingan Bharta is a simple yet flavorful Indian dish that uses roasted (or grilled) eggplant layered with flavors from onions, tomato, jalapeño, spices. By mid-week I was still thoroughly enjoying leftovers and happened upon a stuffed shells recipe on Pinterest. Hmmm…what if instead of Indian spices I add Italian herbs and use an eggplant mixture to replace the cheeses of stuffed shells. I couldn’t wait to try it and am glad I did! This recipe turned out wonderfully. I would consider it a Sunday Dinner as it is more involved than I would venture after work but there are certainly steps where you could stop and continue another day.
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and small diced
1 lb fresh tomatoes, diced
oz of baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup of fresh basil
Faux Parmesan (recipe here)
- Grill or Roast the eggplant. I chose to grill the eggplant. Pierce the eggplant a few times with a knife and grill over medium/high heat for about 20-30 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so. I grilled it on foil. The skin will char and the eggplant will collapse a bit when it is done. Set the eggplant aside until it is cool enough to handle. Peel the skin off and dice it a bit so it’s easier to incorporate into the filling.
- Cook the shells according to the package instructions, drain, and set aside. This recipe makes about 5 servings, which was not quite a full box of shells.
- Preheat a large pot over medium-high heat, add the onion and sauté about 10 minutes; add water a few tablespoons at a time as needed to keep from sticking to the pan.
- Add the garlic and jalapeño and cook for another minute or two.
- Add the mushrooms
- Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and herbs. Cook another 5 minutes until the mushrooms soften.
- Add the grilled eggplant and olives. Mix well and allow to simmer another 2-3 minutes.
- I used an immersion blender to make a thick, creamy mixture that would be easy to stuff the shells.
- Layer a 9 x 11 pan (I used an 8 x 8 and it was not big enough so ended up with two; 9 x 11 would be better) with a bit of tomato sauce. Stuff the shells with the prepared filling. Top with more tomato sauce and faux parmesan.
- Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
I should disclose that I have never been a lover of cheese in my life. So, I cannot compare this dish to a traditional stuffed shells dish as I’ve never had the “real” thing. I did thoroughly enjoy this version though and imagine the creaminess of the eggplant mixture would be reminiscent in texture to a cheese stuffing. The spice of the jalapeño is very subtle but you do get the warmth at the end of each bite. The olives, fennel and garlic are all prominent but balanced. Of course, I had to serve with roasted broccoli as it’s become an addiction at this point.