The recipe that shouldn’t be (here)… eggplant parmegiana
STEPS 7 INGREDIENTS 9 TIME 2-3 HRS
However… this dish’s eggplant ends up with a very pasta-like texture (making this meal quite lasagna-esque), and it’s so incredibly tasty I'm making an 'intelligent exception' to include it.
Eggplant ‘parmegiana’ – or ‘parmigiana di melanzane’ in Italian - is simply one of my very favorite dishes.
I love eggplant (‘aubergine’ to us Europeans), and I adore juicy tomatoes and mozzarella, so for me this parmegiana (from Parma city), is one of the best 'combos' of these ingredients around.
How adaptable? Use eggplant parmegiana as:
• A tasty side dish
• A sumptuous starter
• A main vegetarian dish
• A cold ingredient to serve with hams or in sandwiches ('panini')…
Quick spelling note: The correct Italian spelling is 'parmigiana'). I’m using the ‘e’ version here so that people who Google this incorrect spelling (there are lots) can find this recipe and enjoy this fab dish.
(Put off by the long cooking time? Don't be, check out the 'speed it up' tips at the bottom of this page.
Serves 4-8 (depending on how served)
Ingredients: (For a printable eggplant parmegiana shopping list click here, or right-click to save the list for later.)
Half a medium onion
x3 400g/14oz tins of plum tomatoes
20g/0.7oz fresh basil leaves (roughly 20 large leaves)
x2 200g/7oz balls of fresh mozzarella (normal not buffalo)
50g/1.7oz parmesan cheese
4 long, thin eggplants/aubergines – approx. 1.5kg/52oz
Frying oil (veg, sunflower, or corn)
Extra virgin olive oil
Oven dish / lasagna pan (this Cuisinart is a great buy)
Deep pan/skillet with lid
Absorbent kitchen paper
2nd frying pan (to speed up your frying)
Pair of tongs
STEP 1 - First we’ll prep a couple of bits.
- Peel and finely chop half an onion.
- Grate the parmesan cheese.
- Wash the basil leaves.
- Chop the mozzarella cheese into rough 1cm cubes.
STEP 2 - Now let’s get the tomato sauce cooking. This will bubble away while we work on the eggplant…
- Cover half the base of your deep pan/skillet with olive oil and warm on medium heat hob until hot.
- Tear and drop in 10 of the basil leaves, along with the onion.
- Fry until the onion has softened (5-6 mins should do it).
- Next, add all the toms, with their juice. Pop a pinch of salt on top of each plum tomato.
- Cover the pan and bubble/simmer until the tomatoes soften (5-10 minutes).
- When the toms are softer, squish/break these using a spoon or potato masher, then take off the lid and leave bubbling away on a medium heat.
Note: The sauce should take almost an hour from here. Remember to stir it every so often. When it's lost the majority of its liquidity, and doesn’t taste sour, it’s done.
STEP 3 - While the sauce bubbles, ready your frying pan(s) by filling to one-finger-depth with frying oil (not olive oil).
Don’t be shy with the oil. We’ll need plenty to fry our eggplant.
STEP 4 - Give the sauce a stir. Now… we’ll prepare the eggplant.
- Prepare a large mixing bowl full of lukewarm salty water (1 tablespoon of salt, or 2 teaspoons is okay)
- Wash the eggplants in warm water.
- Cut off both ends of each.
- Peel each using your veg or potato peeler.
- Cut each eggplant in half long ways.
- This part of making eggplant parmegiana takes time, so pop some tunes on…
... and slice each eggplant long ways, as thinly as you possibly can.
Drop each super-thin slice into the salt water to stop it turning brown in the air.
Tip 1: You may be able to use your peeler to create the first few slices.
Tip 2: After that, if you can just see the knife under the layer you are cutting, that’s a good thick/thin-ness!
- Repeat (and repeat) until all the eggplant has been sliced (yes, really!).
STEP 5 - Give the sauce another stir. Now we fry our eggplant.
- First, cover a plate with kitchen paper. We’ll pop our finished fried slices here to absorb excess oil. (When each paper is full, cover again – making a giant fried eggplant/paper sandwich!)
- Heat up your frying pan(s) of oil. I recommend a medium heat (on my hob setting 6 of 9). The oil should be hot by not spitting or smoking.
Tip: Drop a tiny sliver of eggplant into the oil when heating. When it starts sizzling, the oil’s hot enough.
- Grab a handful of eggplant slices and squeeze out excess water.
- Drop these into the frying pan, giving each plenty of room (no overlaps).
- Fry each batch until golden, but not black. When done, pop on the paper and refill the pan.
Important oil tip: When you can see the bottom of your frying pan, it’s time to…
• Finish frying that batch
• Top up the oil – again to finger-depth
• Wait for this to become hot before carrying on frying…
Be patient here… the more layers you fry, the hotter the oil will get… and the quicker the next batch will fry.
STEP 6 - How’s that tomato sauce? Been stirring? Ready? If so, take it off the heat.
When all the eggplant is fried and on paper, we’ll start to prepare our lasagna-like feast.
- Crank up your oven to 180C/350-degrees Fahrenheit.
- Take the oven dish and ‘stain’ the bottom with tomato sauce.
- Loosely cover this base with a layer of fried eggplant (no overlaps required).
- Lightly sprinkle on a small handful of mozzarella cubes and a few basil leave shreds.
- Sprinkle also a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese.
- Cover with another layer of eggplant.
- Smear on a very light layer of tomato sauce (don’t be thorough, we’re really just smudging the sauce on.
- Repeat and repeat, until…
The last layer… should be just a staining of sauce, and parmesan. (Basil and mozza burn on the top.)
STEP 7 - Bake the lot for 15-20 minutes, until nicely browned on top.
That’s it. If eating immediately, just give your eggplant parmegiana 10 minutes or more to cool. This helps it to ‘set’ and firm up, which is key.
Alternatively (in fact, ideally), leave it to cool and serve as a side or starter cold.
Don’t even worry about refrigerating eggplant parmegiana. Just cover with aluminum foil and it will keep at room temperature for 2-3 days.
Loved the taste of this eggplant parmegiana?
Try these other eggplant treats:
Adorned with yet more aubergine, this funky feast is a real alternative lasagna treat.
A dish with a story in its name (choose which version of this you prefer). Quick and easy, this eggplant and tomato winner is a staple offering at our house.
To speed up this eggplant parmegiana next time...
• Employ 2 frying pans to fry the eggplant quicker
• Grab a friend to slice more eggplant as you fry
• Get super-quick at slicing yourself and do what my mamma-in-law Marisa does, and slice directly into the frying pan (experts only!).
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