Parmigiana di Melanzane or Aubergine & Tomato bake is clearly a dish that originated in my beloved Italy. Classically, it consist of slices of aubergine, which are layered alternately with tomato sauce and mozzarella, and then baked in the oven.
A classic Italian dish, it is very much associated (and claimed) to the south of Italy (Campania) and to Sicily, where aubergine and tomato abundantly grow and ripen in the warm mediterranean sun. It has however caught on in the rest of Italy, with ease and has become a general Italian Classic dish, for all of us to enjoy! More on the history you can read here
Today I’m sharing my simple, classic recipe of the dish with you, although there are plenty of alternatives which are not vegetarian but see the tomato sauce enriched with chicken (Chicken parmegiana), veal or other vegetables. There is also the debate relating to the salt and the sweating of the aubergine; the traditional way demands it, other more contempory chefs discard the usefulness of this part of the process, and do not see the need. Personally, I prefer to make the aubergine sweat, to remove a lot of the aubergine water and to prevent any bitterness (as this vegetable can be slightly bitter). I’ll leave the choice up to you.
- 500 gr. Aubergine
- 400 ml Polpa di Pomodoro (Crushed Tomatoes)
- 500 gr Mozzarella -either normal or Mozzarella di Bufala, what you prefer (read about the difference here on Wikipedia)
- Handful of fresh Basil, washed and sliced into thin slivers
- 1 small Onion, optional
- 1/2 clove of Garlic, optional
- 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- Oil for frying
- all purpose Flour
Cut the aubergine in slices of approximately 1 cm thickness. I’ve placed my slices in a big strainer (like the one for pasta) and sprinkled them with salt, so they will sweat. This will cause the aubergine to lose any bitterness. If you weigh them down with a bowl or a plate during the sweating process, it will remove more liquid out of the aubergines. After about 30 minutes, rinse the aubergine thoroughly to get rid of the salt and pat dry with kitchen (paper) towel. Set aside.
Clean and dice your onion and garlic finely, and add into a saucepan. Cook for a few minutes till the onion is translucent and add on the crushed tomatoes. Stir well so all ingredients are well mixed.
Drain and slice the mozzarella in slices of about 0.5 cm thick and pat dry with kitchen towel.
Now we’ll fry the aubergines a few minutes before we layer them. Poor some of your all purpose flour into a plate and season with salt and pepper. In mean time, heat up a grill pan with a little oil. Coat your aubergine slices one by one with the flour pepper and salt mix and fry for 1-2 minutes each on the hot grill pan till golden brown. Set aside on a plate on a kitchen towel to absorb any extra oil. This will make sure the slices remain crispy and will not absorb the extra oil and become soggy.
Keep some of the mozzarella aside to leave on top of the baking tray, this will come golden brown and crispy whilst the bake is baking in the oven.
Take out a baking dish and put a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom. then add a slice of aubergine and a slice of mozzarella. Sprinkle some of the basil slivers in. Add on more tomato sauce, another layer of aubergine and mozzarella and repeat till your baking tray is full.
Heat up your oven to 180 degrees (celsius) and cook for 20 to 30 minutes.
Hope you enjoy this as much as I do! Buon Appetito!