Jaime watched Dinner Impossible with Michael Symon and thought the Stuffed Baby Eggplant looked really good, so sent emailed me the link with "Dad - I think you'd really like this. You should make this for dinner on Thursday while we watch the season premier of Grey's. :)"
I read it and agreed! Then decided to do something "based" on that. :)
So the initial thought was eggplant, but then decided to extend it to multiple veggies - the taste would be good and it would be colorful: purple eggplant, green zucchini, yellow squash and red bell pepper. I figured I would just use mild Italian sausage, but then thinking about the Turkey Sausage Meatball recipe, I decided to mix in ricotta and parmesan. Then bake it in sauce, with mozzarella on top. The original recipe called for making a sauce for 8 hours. I had some left over spaghetti sauce I had made a few days before - and it was enough of a base to just add in some diced tomatoes and let that slow cook for the day until I got home to put it all together. Cooking the sauce "all day" when it has diced veggies in it; lets them all pretty much "melt" into the sauce and gives it a nice deep rich flavor.
So like all my recipes, here is the basic idea - experiment and adjust based on your tastes!
1 jar spaghetti sauce to start as a base,
or you can use some good tomato sauce. Probably about 3 cups
or a couple cups of sauce and some diced tomatoes
1/2 onion minced
1/2 green pepper minced
2 Tbl olive oil - gotta add that flavor
3 to 5 cloves garlic minced - depends on how much you want to "kick it up" :)
Add in some Italian seasoning - a few tbl of basil and maybe one of oregano
Let it cook all day on low in a crock pot
Cut 1 eggplant, 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash in half length-wise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon, being careful not to go too deep and puncture the outside of the veggie. Sprinkle kosher salt on the exposed flesh and let sit for about an hour (I did this for about 15 minutes because we were hungry). The idea is that the salt will pull the moisture out and so you won't end up with so much liquid when you cook it. You can put these upside down on a rack over your sink so that they "drain" as the moisture is pulled. Pat them dry when done.
Cut one bell pepper in 1/2 length-wise and remove the seeds.
1 lb mild (or hot if you prefer) Italian sausage
1/2 cup of ricotta
1/4 cup parmasen
Cover the bottom of a 9x13x2 baking dish with sauce; stuff each veggie with the filling, and place in the dish. Given there were 8 halves, it was a pretty tight fit. So you made need another dish, depending on how many veggies you use and how big they are. Cover the veggies with shredded mozzarella and bake at 350 for an hour; or until the cheese is all melted and the filling looks done.
Plate and drizzle some of the sauce over the top!
I initially cooked it for 45 minutes - but it didn't look quite done enough. And at one hour the sauce had gotten quite a bit more thin - because more liquid cooked out of the veggies. So an hour seemed about right.
It was really good - but there is always room for improvement. :) - Next time I'll probably add a 1/2 cup of bread crumbs in to the filling as well; as I think it would have made a little bit better consistency.
Or another thing we might try, rather than the Italian mild sausage; is to use the Turkey Sausage Meatball recipe rather than the filling I posted above. It has a great taste and is probably more healthy.
Pics of this can be seen this Facebook Photo Album of mine. The first 3 pictures are for this dish.