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Perfect aubergine parmigiana recipe

Perfect aubergine parmigiana recipe



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This classic Italian dish from Sicily is often simply referred to as 'parmigiana' by the Sicilian locals. Serve aubergine parmigiana with nothing more than crusty bread and a green salad.

6 people made this

IngredientsServes: 6

  • 6 medium-sized aubergines
  • extra virgin olive oil, as needed
  • salt, to taste
  • 500g passata
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 500g fresh mozzarella cheese, drained
  • 100g grated Parmesan cheese
  • dried oregano, to taste

MethodPrep:20min ›Cook:1hr ›Ready in:1hr20min

  1. Remove both ends of the aubergines. Cut aubergines into slices about 3 to 4mm thick. Pat dry with kitchen paper.
  2. Heat about 3cm of oil in a saute pan until hot, then add aubergine slices and cook till golden on both sides. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Season with salt.
  3. Place the passata in a saucepan and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, garlic and 4 to 6 leaves of basil. Simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes, then remove the garlic.
  4. If the mozzarella is too soft and watery, slice it and let it drain in a colander for 10 minutes.
  5. Lightly grease a baking dish. Place an even layer of the fried aubergine slices on the bottom, then cover with a ladleful or two of the passata sauce. Top with a layer of mozzarella, a pinch of oregano, Parmesan and some chopped basil leaves. Continue layering in the same way, finishing with a layer of mozzarella and finally a drizzle of olive oil.
  6. Bake at 190 C / Gas 5 for about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for a few minutes before slicing and serve warm.

Tip

Fresh mozzarella can be very soft so it might need to be drained before using. Too much water will soften the fried aubergine and produce too much water in the parmigiana. You can replace fresh mozzarella with scamorza cheese, which is a bit drier but just as tasty.

Make ahead

Prepare the parmigiana up to 24 hours in advance and let it sit at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours or in the fridge for longer time. This way, the aubergine will have the time to soak in the sauce and you'll get a tastier parmigiana.

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(4)

Reviews in English (1)

by Doughgirl8

YUM! A perfect late-summer meal! I'd been craving eggplant Parmesan, and this was a great recipe. I used two large eggplants, rather than 6 lil' farmers' market ones. I also had a 25 oz bottle of passata, so I used the whole thing because I like plenty of sauce. I made this with half scamorza, half mozzarella, and it was delicious! Oh, and I was also running low on olive oil, so I used barely any oil and a hot cast iron skillet for the initial cooking step. I think I used 1/2 teaspoon salt in the sauce, and that - combined with coarse kosher salt sprinkled on the eggplant, plus the salty cheeses, was perfect for me. Great dish.-10 Sep 2018


How to Cook the Perfect Aubergine Parmigiana

Brighten up your bleak February evenings with a touch of stodgy Mediterranean magic.

Aubergine parmigiana (aka melanzane alla parmigiana, or parmesan aubergine, for the sake of linguistic consistency) is that rare and glorious thing: Mediterranean stodge. Despite the oft-repeated assumption that it is, as Jamie Oliver puts it, "a classic northern Italian recipe", parmigiana probably, as Jane Grigson observes in her masterful Vegetable Book, hails from the south, where it is popular fare in the rosticcerias, or roast-meat shops, of Naples and the surrounding area. True, it's almost certainly named for the northern cheese, but the aubergines, the tomatoes, and the mozzarella are all traditionally southern ingredients - perhaps the very fact the parmesan is singled out for mention suggests its exoticism.

Whatever the truth of it, however, this is a dish which works as well on a bleak British February evening as it does on a balmy Naples night in May, the bold flavours supplying a welcome taste of warmer climes, while the copious amounts of oil and cheese provide the real heating power.


What you’ll need


Parmigiana alla Melanzane – Aubergine Parmigiana

By far, one of my favourite Italian home cooked dishes is aubergine parmigiana or parmigiana alla melanzane (in Italian). I have been asked on so many occasions for my recipe. I apologise for taking so long in sharing it with you. A typical dish found in the southern hemisphere of Italy, my recipe is inspired by the Puglian version. It’s a rustic beautiful bake of fried aubergine slices layered with juicy tomato sauce, creamy béchamel and beautiful melted mozzarella and parmesan.

What I love about this dish is that it can be served as a side dish to a roasted dinner – I love lamb – or its perfect as the star of the show with a side of greens. Perfect for vegetarians. This dish involves a bit of time and plenty of love but the end result is phenomenal. Give this recipe a go and bring a slice of rustic Pugliese cooking into your kitchen and home.

Ingredients - 4 people

  • 3 medium sized aubergines, sliced 1cm thick
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 tbsp Plain flour
  • 1 litre passata
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • 250g Mozzarella, cubed
  • 30g Parmesan, grated

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How to make the perfect aubergine parmigiana

“No dish has ever been devised that tastes more satisfyingly of summer,” Marcella Hazan wrote of aubergine parmigiana (known in the US as eggplant parmesan) in her definitive (and assertive) cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. (I might argue that if she’d never been to a clambake or a crab boil, just this once she might have been wrong.)

But at the end of the season – when the tomatoes are destined for sauce instead of salad, the aubergines are shiny and firm, and the idea of a casserole begins to seem appealing again – aubergine parmigiana beckons to many cooks. In Italy, the dish is soft and silky, with the aubergine acting as a succulent sponge for the flavours of olive oil and tomato.

But I’ve never made an aubergine parmigiana that I didn’t regret.

Draining, dredging and frying aubergine slices is a completely worthwhile kitchen project (if one of the messier ones). But according to most recipes for aubergine parmigiana, I am supposed to bury those crisp slices in a dish with tomato sauce, bake them into mush and still expect deliciousness. This never happens. The breading in the crust always soaks up the liquid, and the whole thing becomes mired in sludge.

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At some point between Rome and New York, the recipe seems to have been lost in translation. In general, Italian recipes call for frying the aubergine in a light dusting of flour, making it brown and tender. American recipes often add an egg wash and breadcrumbs to make a thicker, crunchy crust. This is a great development when you are eating plain fried aubergine, but not when that aubergine is destined to end up in a casserole.

Still, I believe that aubergine parmigiana is – or should be – the perfect crowd-pleasing vegetarian entree, with its familiar flavours and satisfying richness. A main dish of aubergine has heft, unlike an entree based on broccoli or cabbage.

I was determined to reformulate the dish so that the aubergine would behave like a cutlet of veal or chicken, standing on its own crusty merits.

There are many good recipes, including Hazan’s, for aubergine parmigiana – but none for a crunchy alternative. You can make grilled and roasted, stacked and rolled, muffin-tin and mug-baked versions. But these run the risk of becoming tough or slimy or both.

In the real world, how to put crunchy aubergine, juicy tomato sauce and melted cheese together on one plate? As is often the case, the answer to my cooking puzzle was already lurking in the memory of Jacques Pépin, the French-American chef who has been cooking professionally since he was 13. (At that time in France, it was possible to leave school and become an apprentice in your teens.)

As a boy, he helped his mother in the family’s restaurant kitchen near Lyon, where he watched her make beignets d’aubergines. She’d split the large aubergine of late summer in half, then thinly slice each half while keeping the slices attached at the stem end, and dip them in a light, eggy batter.

“It was a little like tempura, and I don’t know how she knew to do it, but it worked,” he said. (She also addressed courgettes this way.)

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

1 /13 Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

Stunning photos of food by Anett Velsberg

The slices fan out prettily, and even a fat aubergine becomes flat enough to cook as a cutlet. This way of preparing the vegetable for frying is also traditional in Sicily, where the puffed, golden-brown whole aubergines are called melanzane a quaglia, or aubergine quail-style. The slices curl up and arch as they hit the hot oil, making them look like birds’ wings.

Doing this with smaller whole aubergines works beautifully. I salt the aubergines lavishly, not because of any bitterness that needs to be removed but to firm and season the flesh. (Aubergine flesh itself is almost devoid of flavour and consists mainly of fibre.)

Pressing the aubergines down as they absorb the salt helps both expel the liquid and force them into a flatter shape, the better for pan-frying.

Make sure the batter permeates all the edges and crevices of the aubergine, and then plaster the surface with panko or breadcrumbs.

Once the aubergine was addressed, I needed hot tomato sauce and melted mozzarella to complete the dish. Borrowing an idea from shakshuka, I dropped spoonfuls of mozzarella into simmering tomato sauce, left them to melt, then spooned them out together. Firm, dry-packed mozzarella melted more neatly and reliably than the soft, fresh, water-packed kind.

To keep the aubergine crisp to the very end, I placed the sauce and cheese next to the aubergine on each serving plate, but you might spoon them on top. (You also might put a bed of pasta on the plate for a truly filling meal.)

This revised classic is an excellent reminder that new ways with old dishes are always out there – and sometimes they come from our oldest sources.

And to Drink

While this recipe may revolutionise the method for preparing aubergine parmigiana, it does not change the sort of wine you want, a lively red with good acidity. White wines are best for dishes made with fresh tomatoes, but reds work better with tomato sauces like the marinara used here. Acidity is the key. You don’t want reds that are too oaky, tannic or alcoholic. That leaves plenty of choices, especially among Italian reds. Barberas from Alba or Asti in northwest Italy practically epitomize the low-tannin, high-acidity definition. Happily, lower-priced versions that were not aged in new oak will be ideal. The same is true of Chianti, made of the sangiovese grape, but steer clear of more expensive, and oaky, riservas. Valpolicella is another possibility, and if you would like some bubbles, how about a good Lambrusco?

Crunchy aubergine parmigiana

8 to 10 small aubergines
Salt
680g all-purpose flour
3 large egg yolks
680g dry breadcrumbs or panko, seasoned with 1 teaspoon each salt, black pepper, garlic powder and dried oregano
Vegetable oil, for frying
1kg tomato sauce, preferably homemade
4 to 6 ounces packaged mozzarella, shredded or diced
Freshly minced basil or parsley, for serving

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Set a large ovenproof wire rack over a large rimmed baking sheet.

With a small, sharp knife, starting just below the stem, cut each aubergine lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, keeping them attached at the stem. Place them on paper towels and press down on the aubergines to fan the slices out. Sprinkle with salt on both sides and set aside.

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Measure out 460ml of ice water. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the egg yolks and half the water until almost smooth, then whisk in the remaining water. Add a little more water if the batter seems too thick it should be runny, like glue.

Place the breadcrumbs and seasonings in a medium bowl and lightly mix and crush together with your hands. In a large, deep skillet, heat a generous 1/2 inch of vegetable oil until shimmering (about 350 degrees).

Working in batches, dip aubergine in the batter, dredge in breadcrumbs and add to the skillet. Fry until nicely browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat if the aubergines are browning too quickly. Turn and cook until browned on the second side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to the rack set over the baking sheet and season with salt transfer the baking sheet with the rack to the oven to keep warm while you fry the remaining aubergine.

In a wide skillet, heat the marinara sauce over low heat until bubbling. Divide the mozzarella into 8 to 10 piles (one for each aubergine). Pick up and place the piles of cheese in the sauce, spacing the piles out so they melt separately. You may need to do this in 2 batches. Divide aubergine on plates. Place a spoonful of sauce next to or on top of each aubergine. Top sauce with melted mozzarella, lifting it out with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle with fresh herbs, and serve immediately.


What is Aubergine Parmigiana

First prepare the aubergines by slicing them, and lightly frying with as little oil as possible cook the slices in batches and set aside. Add the minimum amount of oil possible to the aubergine slices when frying, if you cook the slices with too much oil the aubergine slices can be greasy or soggy. Next make a rich traditional tomato sauce with tomatoes, onions and garlic. In an oven proof dish layer the tomato sauce, aubergines slices, basil leaves and grated mozzarella and parmesan, repeat layers ending with a cheese layer. Finally bake till golden brown


History of Eggplant Parmigiana

The origins and history of eggplant parmigiana are quite interesting. In fact, there is a widely known dispute over how the dish even got its name.

Eggplant parmigiana is a classic dish of southern Italy and is mostly associated with the cooking style of Naples.

However, it can easily be found in Calabria and Sicily as well. If you are wondering what eggplant parmigiana is, that may vary region by region.

Essentially, the dish as we know it today is a casserole made with thinly sliced eggplant, which can be battered or plain.

They can be baked or fried and layered with tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmigiano cheese, basil and some even add hardboiled egg slices.

Of course, eggplant parmigiana hasn’t always resembled this and, once again, the name of the dish is still something to be discussed.

The dish goes back to the later 1300’s where it is mentioned in a poem about food called Il Saporetto. This poem refers simply to eggplant with parmigiano cheese.

However, later in the late 1700’s, a cookbook called “Il Cuoco Galante” mentions eggplant being cooked “alla Parmegiana”.

Which means that it was seasoned with butter, cinnamon and other spiced with grated parmigiano cheese over the top along with a cream sauce.

The dish as we know it today, follows a recipe from 1837 in a cookbook called Cucina Teorico-Pratica , which was widely popular in Naples. This is when a tomato-based sauce makes its appearance, being layered in with the eggplant.

All of these recipes point to “Parmigiana” referring to parmigiano cheese yet many think this is not how the dish got its name, especially since the cheese is not native to Naples, where the dish is said to have originated.

One theory is that the dish is actually from Northern Italy in the city of Parma (where Parmigiano cheese is also from).

Another argument claims that the word parmigiana comes from the word “damigiana” which is a wicker sleeve used to hold a hot casserole.

Yet another idea references the Sicilian word “palmigiana” which means “shutters”, referring to the overlapping panes of shutters that are layered like the eggplant dish.

All of these potential stories about how eggplant parmigiana got its name are speculative and not backed by much evidence.

So, it is pretty safe to say that the dish is named after the famous cheese, especially since it is mentioned so frequently in recipes dating so far back.

No matter how it got its name, it is an authentic Italian dish that deserves its moment in the spotlight!


Method

Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil on both sides to coat. Heat a griddle pan and cook the aubergines for a couple of minutes on both sides until lightly browned. Set aside while you get on with the tomato sauce.

Heat a large frying pan. Fry the garlic and onion with a little oil until soft. Add the chopped tomatoes, oregano and wine. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7.

In a medium-sized roasting tin, spread a little tomato sauce over the bottom of the tin. Add a layer of aubergine slices and spread another layer of tomato sauce on top.

Spread half the ricotta on the top and sprinkle with Parmesan, salt and pepper. Continue to repeat the layers until all the aubergine is used. Finish with a layer of mozzarella slices topped with a final sprinkle of Parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes.

Serve the parmigiana hot with a green salad alongside. This dish reheats well if you have any leftovers.

Recipe Tips

If cooking for vegetarians, just make sure the cheese is free from animal rennet.


Perfect Grilled Eggplant

Grilled eggplant can be one of the great treats of summer—lusciously tender eggplant, with bits of crispy charred edges here and there. It works on its own, as part of a grilled vegetable platter, or even as a stand-in for a meat patty in burgers. Sadly, it is more commonly either overcooked and flavorless or undercooked and spongy. Luckily, there is a way to grill tender, flavorful eggplant.

This easy recipe uses the power of salted water (or brining) to guarantee great grilled eggplant. It's easy and adds 30 minutes to this otherwise quick recipe, but it's worth it. Every time you pop a few slices of this brilliantly flexible vegetable on a hot grill, it will come off crispy brown on the outside, creamy sweet on the inside, and full of flavor.

Feel free to embellish with spices and other flavors. Serve it with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a dollop of pesto, a spoonful of romesco, or a scattering of crumbled feta cheese and make this simple technique a recipe of your own. Grilled eggplant is also particularly yummy with a few grilled tomatoes at its side.


Eggplant Parmigiana Recipe

Ingredients:

700 g eggplant
250 g tomato sauce
250 g sliced mozzarella (or tuma cheese)
80 g grated Grana Padano cheese or caciocavallo cheese
Flour
Basil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Slice and salt the eggplants. Leave them in a colander, covered with a weight, to extract excess liquid for 30 minutes. Then dry the eggplants slices with a clean paper towel and dip them in flour.

Fry in hot oil and drain on paper towels once cooked on both sides.

Spread 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce on an ovenproof baking dish. Add a layer of fried eggplant (it’s okay if they overlap a little), a handful of Grana (or Parmigiano) cheese, a pinch of salt, slices of mozzarella, and chopped basil leaves. Sprinkle with more tomato sauce.

Keep alternating layers of ingredients: First the eggplants followed by grana cheese, mozzarella, basil, and finally tomato sauce. Finish with a layer of mozzarella, and add a sprinkle of grana cheese with a pinch of pepper. Bake at 375°F (190°C) for about 25 minutes. Serve hot.


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