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Is this meatless meal too delicious for Lent?

Eggplant stuffed with tuna

Magdanatka | Shutterstock | Altered by Aleteia

John Touhey - published on 03/05/24

The first time I tried Eggplant Stuffed with Tuna it was so shockingly good I felt a bit guilty. Should I enjoy a meatless Friday meal this much during Lent?

On Fridays during Lent, Catholics are required to abstain from meat. (It is also something we are invited to do on Fridays all year round.) With that in mind, Aleteia has provided a Meatless Meal Planner to help those who are looking for interesting meals beyond the usual cheese pizza or tuna casserole.

Here’s my quandary: This week’s dish may simply be too tasty for Lent. I mean, the Lenten season is supposed to be about abstinence and penitential offering. Maybe a dish as wonderful as Eggplant Stuffed with Tuna is simply not Lenten enough. Yes, it’s that good!

Simple ingredients transformed

The ingredients are simple as you will see – a large eggplant, a couple cans of tuna fish, breadcrumbs and eggs … The recipe takes a bit of preparation, but it’s nothing that even a beginning cook can’t handle. I am no master chef and the first time I tried it, the dish turned out perfect. And my wife and I were honestly shocked at how amazing it was.

Occasionally, the combination of certain basic ingredients is unexpectedly transformed into something that is almost mystically wonderful. That, of course, is the magic of cooking.

Babette and the Pietists

Have you seen the movie Babette’s Feast? If not, put it on your watch list. Pope Francis has named it his favorite film for a reason. I won’t spoil the delightful plot, but at one point a group of Pietists is served a celebratory meal that is prepared by a woman who, unbeknownst to them, was once the most lauded chef in France.

The Pietists are used to eating boiled fish and gruel every day, and when they get their first taste of the feast Babette has prepared, they are scandalized. But it would also be uncharitable to walk out on their hosts, and so … When eating Eggplant Stuffed with Tuna the other day, I could relate to those humble but lucky Pietists.

You have been warned

Do you suspect me of exaggerating? Well then, you will have to try making Eggplant Stuffed with Tuna and judge for yourself. Only don’t blame me if you feel a bit guilty like those Pietists in Babette’s Feast this Friday. You have indeed been warned. In any case, next Friday you can go back to having your boiled fish and gruel.

Note: The recipe requires a simple tomato sauce, so we will start with that. Then you will find the recipe for Eggplant Stuffed with Tuna. For those who are averse to eggplant and/or tuna, we have a quick guide to preparing spaghetti squash that can be served with the tomato sauce. It is also very tasty.

Quick homemade tomato sauce

Homemade tomato sauce is much tastier and healthier than the average jarred sauce. This basic version is simple to prepare and can be made in half an hour. You will want to prepare this sauce before making the eggplant recipe that follows. However, it is not absolutely necessary for the eggplant recipe, so if you are pressed for time, you can skip the sauce.


  • 1 15-ounce can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, 1 stalk celery, 1 carrot, 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning – ½ tspn oregano, ½ tspn basil, a dash of salt and pepper

Directions: Dice the onion and celery, chop the carrot and garlic fine, and sauté everything in a pan with your olive oil. When the onions are translucent, add the can of diced tomatoes and bring to a slow boil, then add herbs and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Done!

Eggplant Stuffed with Tuna

Ingredients (serves 2–4. Double the ingredients for each additional large eggplant.)

  • 1 large or 2 smaller eggplants (also known as aubergines)
  • 2 cans of tuna fish
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 stuffed Spanish olives (the green ones with red pimentos sold in jars)
  • ½ cup of breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 sprigs of parsley
  • 1 small onion, 2 cloves garlic
  • Seasoning – ½ teaspoon oregano, a dash of salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil

Directions: Preheat oven to 360 degrees F.

Wash and dry the eggplant(s), then cut in half lengthwise. Using a paring knife, cut a ¼ inch border around the inside of the eggplant, into its flesh. Using a spoon, gently scoop the flesh out of the eggplant and set aside. Try to maintain a ¼ inch thickness of eggplant in the “bowl” you are making. Place the two eggplant halves hollowed-out sides up in a roasting pan or baking dish, preferably lined with baking paper. It should look like this:

Hollowed-out eggplant

Drizzle with a little olive oil. Place the hollowed-out eggplants in the oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until tender. (Ovens vary wildly, so pay attention.)

While the eggplant is baking, dice the eggplant flesh into tiny cubes. Dice the onion and chop the garlic fine. Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil in pan, fry the onion and garlic for 1 minute on medium heat, then add the diced eggplant flesh. Cook on moderate-low heat for about 10 minutes, until tender. Eggplant absorbs oil, so if it starts sticking to the pan just add a little more oil.

Once the diced eggplant flesh is ready, place in a bowl. Drain the cans of tuna, flake the tuna, and add to the bowl. Break 2 eggs into the mixture. Add 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, ½ cup of breadcrumbs, and the herbs. Cut the olives into thirds and add these. Finally, chop two sprigs of parsley and add to the bowl. Mix it all up thoroughly.

Remove eggplant from oven. Spoon the filling into the warm shells. It should look like this:

Eggplant with tuna filling

Sprinkle the eggplants with the remaining parmesan cheese. Place in 360-degree oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove from oven, drizzle with some tomato sauce (if you made it), and garnish with the remaining sprig of parsley.

Eggplant stuffed with tuna

How to prepare spaghetti squash

For those who are averse to eggplant and/or tuna, consider making spaghetti squash instead. It is ridiculously easy to prepare and quite yummy.

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

  • Spaghetti squash (a pale, oblong winter squash)
  • 1 small onion, 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions: There are several ways to prepare spaghetti squash, but I prefer the boiling method. Bring a large pot of water to a low boil, then CAREFULLY place the spaghetti squash in the pot, making sure you don’t splash yourself with the boiling water! (I wear oven mitts when doing this just to be safe.)

Cook the squash at a slow boil until it is tender. This can take 30–45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the squash. Test with a fork and when it is tender, turn off the water.

CAREFULLY remove the spaghetti squash from the water using tongs and place on cutting board. (Again, use those oven mitts!)

Slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. This should be easy – much easier than if you try to cut it before cooking, which is why I prefer the boiling method.

Spoon out the seeds and yellow goop in the center of the squash. With a fork, drawing it lengthwise inside the squash, remove the long strands of cooked squash, which will resemble strands of spaghetti (hence the name). Place the squash in a bowl.

This next step is not strictly necessary, but I think it makes the squash tastier and more tender: Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan along with 1 diced onion and 2 cloves of finally chopped garlic. When the onion is translucent, add the spaghetti squash strands and sauté for 5-6 minutes.

Return the spaghetti squash to the bowl and add tomato sauce (see above).

For more meatless meal ideas, check out Aleteia’s Meatless Meal Planner for Lent 2024. We will be adding new recipes every Tuesday all throughout the season of Lent.

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