Parmigiana di Melanzane is an absolute classic of Italian cuisine, those who love eggplant and Parmigiano – and who doesn’t? – will be delighted. A good parmigiana is creamy and tastes fruity and deeply sunny. An enormously simple, vegetarian dish that is guaranteed to succeed. There are, of course, as always with classics, 1,000 ways to prepare it and just as many recipe variations. We’ve tried a few of them and can tell you that this no-frills, no-exotic-ingredients recipe is our absolute favorite. Even in the recipe book for classic Italian cuisine, the Silver Spoon, there are ingredients that didn’t convince us, like egg.
You’ll be amazed at how relatively easy it is to make this incredibly delicious dish – here we go!
First, cut the eggplant lengthwise into slices about 0.5 cm thick. Lightly salt the slices and let them lose some water in a colander, piled on top of each other, for about half an hour.
Meanwhile, you can prepare the tomato sauce. Cut one onion and three cloves of garlic into small pieces and sauté them over low heat in a little olive oil (by the way, it can be a quasi-religious question among Italians whether it is legal to use both onion and garlic within the same dish – we will not go deeper into this subject here). When they have turned translucent first and lightly brown later, you can add the chunky tomatoes.
Season with salt and pepper and a teaspoon of sugar. That’s all it takes for the perfectly fruity tomato sauce, which you keep simmering gently during the next step.
Now continue with the eggplants. Press the slices with the palms of your hands before the next step. They will still lose a surprising amount of liquid in the process – this is good for the consistency of your parmigiana.
In the north of Italy, the slices of eggplant are roasted in the oven, which is one option. In fact, the parmigiana becomes even more delicious with fried eggplant (this is the southern Italian version). To do this, flour the slices on a plate – pat them well afterwards, a light layer of flour is quite enough. Too much flour would result in a greasier dish.
Don’t worry: with a little care, deep frying is not a problem. For frying we use very simply a wok or a small pot. It’s best to use tongs or a slotted spoon so you don’t get hurt by any splashes. Make sure your pot is secure on the stove. Heat enough vegetable oil to float the slices well, but you need less than you think, about 250 ml should be enough.
It is easy to preventfood from getting too greasy from deep frying if you follow a few tips. First, high temperature ensures that the fried food does not soak up too much fat. If the oil is hot enough, the surface will seal up in a flash, creating a crispy coating. It is best to test the temperature with a wooden spoon. If small bubbles form immediately, you can fry slice by slice, which only takes about half a minute each.
Afterwards (tip 2), it’s crucial to immediately pat the golden-brown roasted slices dry with paper towels so that excess oil doesn’t seep into the vegetables as they cool.
While the eggplants are cooling between layers of paper towels, you can now grate the Parmigiano, chop the mozzarella and pluck the leaves from the basil. You don’t have to chop the leaves, the dish tastes best when only lightly torn. Now, everything is ready to be put together.
First some tomato sauce and a few basil leaves, then a layer of eggplant and cheese.
Repeat until you finish with a layer of tomatoes. On top, add grated Parmigiano and a handful of breadcrumbs for a particularly tasty crust. We use stale bread for this and make the breadcrumbs ourselves.
The parmigiana goes into the oven at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes until there is a wonderful brown crust on top. Done.
And may the taste be with you.
Ingredients (for 4 people as a main dish):
1 kg eggplants (yes, 1 kg)
1 kg chunky tomatoes (2 -3 cans each 400 g)
1 bunch of basil
approx. 100 g good Parmigiano Reggiano
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp sugar
Vegetable oil for frying