The beautiful purple eggplant is one of Italy’s most popular vegetables. Next to endless varieties of tomatoes, eggplants are to be found piled high on market stalls from Parma to Palermo. I often make “melanzane alla parmigiana” for dinner and dream of Italy.
- three firm eggplants
- 20 milliliters of extra virgin olive oil
- 400 milliliters of slow cooked tomato sauce
- 200 grams of fresh buffalo mozzarella
- 100 grams of aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 18-24 fresh basil leaves
- sea salt to taste
Heat a heavy cast iron pan or a grilling pan on the stove until it is nice and hot. Wipe the eggplants with a clean tea towel. Slice them into even rounds, approximately 1 centimeter thick. Brush the hot pan with olive oil. Grill the sliced eggplant on the stove top in batches, turning them over when they are light golden in color, about two minutes on each side. Make sure the heat is not too intense, as the eggplant rounds need to cook without burning. This process requires a bit of patience, but will take only fifteen to twenty minutes. Stack the grilled eggplant slices on a platter.
Preheat the oven to 175 ºC. Cover a tart pan with baking paper. Grate the Parmigiano cheese with the coarse side of a cheese grater. Tear the buffalo mozzarella into small chunks.
Spread a generous amount of tomato sauce on the bottom of the tart pan with a spoon. Layer the grilled eggplant in overlapping rows to cover the bottom of the pan. Season the eggplant with a bit of sea salt. Sprinkle Parmigiano Reggiano over the eggplant and dot it with pieces of buffalo mozzarella. Decorate the cheese with six leaves of freshly torn basil. Repeat the process, alternately using the ingredients as described. Make a tart with three layers. Top the eggplant tart with tomato sauce and a sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Bake the tart in the preheated oven for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the eggplant is soft enough to cut with a fork. Remove the “melanzane” from the oven and allow it to cool twenty minutes before spooning it up on a plate drizzled with the best virgin olive oil, decorated with sprigs of fresh basil.
Serve the baked eggplant with freshly baked bread to soak up the sauce.
♦ Suggested combinations
Melanzane alla Parmigiana is a meal in itself. Serve a crisp green salad to accompany it.
This recipe is for Nadine !
I never salt my eggplant or put weights on it prior to baking or grilling it. Fresh eggplant is not bitter and does not need complicated treatment in the least.