Sicilian Stuffed Eggplants "Milinciani Ammuttunati"
I know, I know - the Sicilian name "Milinciani Ammuttunati" may sound hard to pronounce, but trust me when I say this is an incredibly easy and rich dish that will make you fall in love with Sicilian cuisine even more.
The relationship between aubergines and Sicilian cuisine is one of true love. One of those intense and lasting loves, an indissoluble bond born from tradition and passed on from generation to generation. Proof of that is an endless list of recipes that enhance every variety and type of this vegetable - from large to small, long to round - you are just spoiled with choices when it comes to this vegetable.
Among the most popular dishes, this is one of my favourite. They are really easy to make and typical especially of summer, because they use a variety of small or aubergines with a slightly bitter taste that grow especially in summer.
My mum tells me she has very fond memories of this dish. Her mother used to prepare it in what we call tiana - a terracotta pot where the aubergines would simmer slowly and soak up all the juices from the tomatoes. She vaguely remembers another version of the dish without tomatoes, where the aubergines would simply simmer in oil, garlic and a little water.
For this recipe, you must use small or medium-small eggplants. You then score them deep with a knife and stuff with cheese, fresh mint leaves and garlic, and simmered in a beautiful tomato and basil sauce.
By the time they are done, the eggplants will melt in your mouth and all you'll want to do is mopping up the sauce with bread.
Ingredients (for 2 as a main)
2 medium-small aubergines (or 4 small round ones)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
400g peeled tomatoes with their juices
1 small onion, minced finely
3-4 fresh basil leaves
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly lengthwise
A small bunch of fresh mint
100g of mild caciocavallo cheese, sliced in small bits
Sunflower or peanut oil for frying
Start by preparing the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil and add the peeled tomatoes. I used canned ones, and thinned the sauce by refilling the can with water to about half and adding it to the pot. Season with salt and sugar, add fresh basil, cover with a lid and cook on medium-low for about 10 minutes.
In the meantime, prep the aubergines. I used medium-small aubergines and prefer to peel them in this case. If you are using small ones, you can skip this step.
Score the aubergines all around with a knife. Insert one piece of cheese, a mint leaf and a slice of garlic inside each cut.
Heat the frying oil in a pan and fry the aubergines, turning them regularly, until they are nicely browned on all sides. They don't need to be cooked through, so this will take more or less 5 minutes, depending on the size of your aubergines.
Transfer the aubergines carefully to the pot with the tomato sauce. Cover and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes, until the aubergines are extra tender. If needed, add a few splashes of water to the sauce if it becomes too thick.
Serve this with bread on the side.