Eggplant is something that we hardly ever ate when we lived in America. Sadly, it’s probably just because we didn’t know how to prepare this amazing vegetable.
Here in Roma, eggplant (melanzana), is available nearly year round. There are a couple of varieties, but for this dish we prefer to use the classic variety that has a dark purple/black skin. If you can find it in a more oblong shape, it will work better for this classic Italian dish that comes from Campania and is nearly always on the menu of restaurants here in Italy.
This recipe is fairly simple—it just takes a few steps. However, it’s well worth the time spent as it turns out deliziosa every time! It’s also a great dish for entertaining as you can do most of the work and clean up before your guests even arrive.
Something most people don’t know about Neil is that he loves to cook—and is great at it! After experimenting with this dish, it has become his go-to meal to prepare when we have people over for dinner. We love sharing food with our friends and are happy to share this recipe with you!
Parmigiana di Melanzane
32 oz plain tomato sauce
5 medium sized eggplants
10 oz sliced mozzarella (not part-skim—this is important)
2 cups parmigiano reggiano (grated)
1 bunch of fresh basil
Prepare the Vegetables
Wash the eggplant and cut the ends off. You can slice the eggplants cross-wise or length-wise—but we prefer length-wise. Lay out all of the slices of the eggplants on a large cutting board or countertop. Sprinkle salt on top of all of the slices (this draws out the bitterness of the eggplant). Allow the slices to rest like this for 20-30 minutes. Rinse the slices and dry with a paper towel or tea towel. Then, in a large frying pan, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil and fry the eggplant in batches on both sides until slightly browned and until all of the eggplant has been fried. Set aside in a large bowl.
Slice 1 onion and set aside for the sauce.
Prepare the Sauce
Pour 2 Tbsp of oil into a large frying pan. When the oil is hot, add the sliced onion and cook until translucent. Add the tomato sauce and 6-8 whole fresh basil leaves with a liberal amount of salt (which helps to balance out the acidity of the tomato sauce) and a bit of pepper and let simmer. Reduce for about 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.
Assemble the Dish
Begin with a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish. Then create a layer of the fried eggplant. Then place about 1/3 of the sliced mozzarella on top of the eggplant spacing the slices out evenly. Lay 4-5 fresh basil leaves evenly spaces on top of the mozzarella. Then sprinkle 1/3 of the grated parmigiano on top.
Repeat this entire layering process another time.
Repeat again for a third time until the eggplant layer. After layering the eggplant this third time, create another thin layer of sauce on top and finish with the last layer of sliced mozzarella spaced evenly. Sprinkle the top with the remaining parmigiano.
Place the dish in a preheated oven set at 400° fahrenheit and bake for about 1 hour until the top layer of cheese is slightly browned. Let cool for about 15 minutes and serve.