Melitzanes Papoutsakia (Little Shoes) - Step by Step

  • 01 of 07

    "Little Shoes"

    Papoutsakia - Stuffed Eggplant Halves
    "Little Shoes" - Stuffed Eggplant Halves. Photo © Jim Stanfield

    In Greek: μελιτζάνες παπουτσάκια (pronounced meh-leed-ZAH-nes pah-poot-SAHK-yah)

    (Text-only recipe)

    Once prepared, these filled eggplant halves topped with béchamel sauce, look like papoutsakia which is Greek for "little shoes."

    We prefer a filling with a chunky texture, so this version has become a family tradition. For alternatives including a smoother sauce and no tomato on top, see the step "Ready to Serve & Alternative Preparation."

    Preparation time: 45 minutes
    Cooking time: 1 - 1 1/2 hours
    Yield: 12 pieces (serves 6)

    Continue to 2 of 7 below.
  • 02 of 07

    Prepare Your Ingredients

    Ingredients for Melitzanes Papoutsakia
    Gather, measure, and prepare ingredients. Photo © Jim Stanfield

    Pots, Pans, Utensils

    • 2 large heavy frying pans or skillets, one with cover
    • large baking or roasting pan
    • saucepan
    • wooden spoon
    • whisk
    • small sharp knife


    • 6 fairly small eggplants (approx. 2 pounds)
    • 1/2 pound ground beef
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (if garlic is a problem, substitute with 2-3 scallions)
    • 1 medium onion, finely chopped or grated
    • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley
    • 2 cups (4-5 medium) of ripe peeled, cored tomatoes, very finely chopped (or canned or ripe roma tomatoes)
    • 5-10 tablespoons of olive oil
    • 1 cup of grated kefalotyri cheese (or pecorino or parmesan)
    • 12 very thin slices of tomato
    • salt
    • pepper
    • 1 cup of medium béchamel sauce (step 4)

    Step 1:

    • Prepare onions, parsley, tomatoes, garlic, and cheese as above.
    • Remove ground beef from the refrigerator, keeping covered until time to use.
    Continue to 3 of 7 below.
  • 03 of 07

    Scoop Out the Eggplant

    Scooping out the eggplant for Melitzanes Papoutsakia
    Using a spoon or small knife, or both, scoop out the eggplant pulp. Photo © Jim Stanfield

    Wash and dry the eggplants, trim off stems, and cut in half, lengthwise. With a small knife or spoon, scoop out the pulp of the egglant, leaving a shell about 1/8 inch thick. Take care not to break through the skin of the eggplant.

    If you haven't done this before, take your time. The pulp will be chopped up and used in the filling, so it can come out a piece at a time.

    • Using a spoon, scoop out seeds from the center and discard. Start at the center of the eggplant half and work your way outward.
    • Using a knife, remove the seeds and discard, then carefully slice around the edge, leaving a small layer of pulp next to the skin; continue to cut moving in toward the center.

    Chop the pulp and set it aside.

    Preheat large frying pan (with cover) on low heat.

    Continue to 4 of 7 below.
  • 04 of 07

    Make the Meat Sauce

    Making the filling for papoutsakia
    First the onions, then the eggplant pulp, ground beef, tomatoes, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper for the filling. Photo © Jim Stanfield

    When the frying pan has preheated, increase heat and sauté the onions (both types if you're using scallions instead of garlic) in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, using the frying pan that has the cover. When the onions soften and turn translucent (without browning), add the chopped eggplant pulp and stir for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the ground beef and sauté until it starts to brown. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, garlic, pinches of salt and pepper (to taste), and reduce the heat. Simmer covered for 20 minutes or until the sauce melds and the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat, and set aside.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Make the Béchamel Sauce

    Bechamel with salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg
    Béchamel with salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg. Photo © Jim Stanfield

    Ingredients to make 1 cup

    • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
    • 2 tablespoons of butter
    • 1 cup slightly warm whole milk
    • salt
    • pepper
    • grated nutmeg
    • 1 or 2 egg yolks


    In a saucepan, melt the butter on low heat. As soon as it starts to bubble (not brown) add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until there are no lumps, Add the milk slowly, stirring constantly with a whisk, until the sauce begins to thicken - creamy without being too thick (it will thicken further after removing from the heat). Remove from the heat and stir in salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Allow the sauce to cool for a few minutes before stirring in the egg yolk until well blended.

    Continue to 6 of 7 below.
  • 06 of 07

    Fill and Cook the Eggplant

    Filling the eggplants for Melitzanes Papoutsakia
    Left to right: sprinkle the well with cheese, add the meat filling, cover with bechamel, top with a slice of tomato and more cheese. Photo © Jim Stanfield

    Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Preheat second frying pan over low heat. Increase heat when ready to sauté the eggplant.

    • Lightly sauté the eggplant halves in olive oil in the second frying pan. Start with a little oil (3 tablespoons) but have more at hand since eggplant absorbs a lot of oil and the pan could dry out. This step is simply to soften the eggplant a bit, so sauté quickly on both sides, remove, and drain on a rack (do not wipe off the oil).
    • Place the eggplant halves on the bottom of a baking or roasting pan. Sprinkle some of the cheese to cover the bottom of the well in the eggplant, then spoon in the filling to the top of the side rims.
    • Spoon over the béchamel sauce (about 1 tablespoon for each piece), and place a slice of tomato on top.
    • When all the eggplants are finished, sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the top.
    • Cook on the lowest oven rack setting until the béchamel is browned, the cheese on top is browned, and the eggplants are soft, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

    We got the idea of sprinkling the well of the eggplant with grated cheese before filling from a recipe by Diane Kochilas, one of the great Greek cooks and author of some of the finest Greek food cookbooks in print.

    Continue to 7 of 7 below.
  • 07 of 07

    Ready to Serve & Alternative Preparation

    Melitzanes Papoutsakia ready to eat
    "Little shoes" on the table, ready to eat. Photo © Jim Stanfield

    Remove the eggplants from the pan with a spatula and serve warm.

    Alternative preparation

    • For the less chunky sauce, when preparing the tomatoes, onions, and eggplant pulp, use a food processor or grate them to make smaller pulpy pieces. Use with their liquids. Reduce simmer time to 10-15 minutes as it will take a little less time for the sauce to meld.
    • Some versions don't call for the tomato slice on top. If you don't use it, just sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the béchamel, and cook the same way, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the béchamel browns and the eggplants are soft.