Slice each eggplant in half, lengthwise from stem to blossom end. Using a spoon, hollow out eggplants, leaving about a ½-inch thick border around skin.
Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Transfer eggplant boats to the lined baking sheet.
Roughly chop the scooped out eggplant pieces and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high. Add chopped onions to the hot oil.Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are translucent and just beginning to brown; about 5-7 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium.Add minced garlic, chopped mushrooms, and chopped eggplant. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.Cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant and mushrooms have released their juices and are almost fully cooked; about 5 minutes.
Push eggplant mixture to the sides of skillet and add the mild Italian sausage in the center. Cook sausage, breaking up as you go, until it is fully cooked; about 5 minutes.Stir the cooked sausage and eggplant mixture together.
Reduce heat to medium-low. Add dried basil and oregano, pepper, diced tomatoes, brown sugar (optional), and hot sauce (optional).
Bring the mixture to a simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until no watery liquid remains in the pan when you pull the mixture away.Remove the skillet from heat. Taste the mixture and adjust seasoning to taste.
To the mixture in skillet, add ½ cup bread crumbs and 2 ounces of grated or shredded cheese.Give everything one good stir to thoroughly combine.
Fill & Bake Eggplant Boats
Preheat oven to 350°F | 180°C.Using a large spoon, evenly divide the filling between the eggplant halves.
Bake uncovered for 40 minutes.Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Top with a generous sprinkling of cheese. Garnish with basil or arugula ribbons.
You can prepare the filling well up to 2 days ahead of time, and stuffed and bake the eggplant boats when you want to serve them.You can also completely prepare and bake them up to 24-hours ahead of time, and reheated in the oven when you want to serve them.To reheat Stuffed Eggplant Boats straight from the fridge, place eggplant halves on a baking tray into a cold oven. Turn the oven on to to 350°F | 180°C. Bake eggplants for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F | 75°C.For a real flavor boost, drizzle on a little balsamic glaze on the eggplants right before serving!We love to serve stuffed eggplant with a simple arugula and tomato salad. Poppy seed dressing pairs very nicely!You can easily make vegetarian eggplant boats by substituting a plant-based alternative to the Italian sausage in the bolognese sauce.