Melanzane alla Parmigiana or aubergine Parmigiana (aubergine & tomato bake) is one of my all-time favourite vegetarian dishes. I felt inspired to do another rendition.
You will need to make a tomato sauce and then layer it with cooked aubergine and cheese. It then bakes into bubbly perfection. Very often the aubergine (brinjal) is breaded and then deep-fried first, but I find this adds an unnecessary amount of oil, making the dish excessively rich. I prefer to simply grill the aubergine slices on a griddle pan.
If you have not yet experienced the joys of Marcella Hazan’s life-changing tomato sauce you have been missing out. I took a couple of nuances from this – namely cooking the tomato sauce with an onion and a dollop of butter. The onion gets removed at the end of the cooking time. I added a small amount of red wine to enrich the sauce along with the garlic, a little dried oregano, salt, pepper and sugar. Malanzane alla Parmigiana needs that little extra oomph.
Adding crumbs at the end is something I also like to do. I fry the bread with olive oil and herbs to create a golden brown and crunchy topping. Otherwise known as poor man’s Parmesan, it adds a lovely textural and flavour element to the dish. I made a little extra and sprinkled this between the layers ( entirely optional). I love the texture of fresh mozzarella and I used torn-up bocconcini but you could use a firmer variety of mozzarella too.
Because olive oil is such a big part of the dish I like to use a really good quality one. Babylonstoren sent me a sample of their single varietal freshly pressed Frantoio olive oil which has a lovely herbaceous green note to it and I am really loving it in salad dressings and to dip bread into. I love all the things you can buy at their delicious shop on the farm.
I took my new Le Creuset cast iron pot for its first spin on the stove. It was sent to me by Le Creuset to announce their Sage range of cookware and I’m totally in love with this colour. I used their non-stick griddle pan to cook the aubergines in this recipe and it is one of my favourite pans of all time.
Aubergine Parmigiana– serves 4 as a side dish 2 as a main
Aubergine Parmigiana (Melanzane alla Parmigiana)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 x 400gms tins of tomatoes
- 1 brown onion peeled and cut in half lengthways
- 80 ml red wine – optional
- 2 Tbsp butter
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- Salt & pepper
- 3 large Aubergines cut lengthways to about ¾ cm – 1 cm thick
- olive oil for brushing
- 150 gms mozzarella fior di latte or grated mozzarella
- 100 gms Parmesan cheese
- Fresh basil leaves to serve optional
- Crumb topping optional
- 60 gms fresh breadcrumbs or panko
- 1 Tbsp freshly chopped herbs basil / parsley / thyme/ oregano
- Olive oil for frying them in
- Salt & pepper
- To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a medium-sized pot and gently fry the garlic for about 1 minute. Add all the other ingredients and allow this to simmer for 45 minutes with the lid off on a gentle heat. Remove the onion and scrape off any sauce. Puree the sauce or mash with a potato masher to leave it a little chunkier.
- While the sauce is bubbling away, brush your cut slices of aubergine lightly with olive oil and fry on a hot griddle pan on each side until golden brown. Set aside.
- Make the crumb mixture by heating olive oil in a pan (you will use about 2 – 3 tablespoons) and toss the crumbs and herbs with this and fry until golden brown and lightly clumping together. Season with salt and pepper.
- When all the components are ready, preheat the oven to 180c / 350F.
- Get an appropriately sized oven dish about (25 x 12–15cm) but anyone that is thick and wide enough to make about 3 or 4 layers.
- Spread a little tomato sauce on the bottom, add a layer of grilled aubergine, and then add some mozzarella and a small handful of Parmesan. Sprinkle a few crumbs if you are using and then repeat this making sure the top layer is of tomato sauce. Scatter over any remaining mozzarella or Parmesan over the top of that. Reserve the breadcrumb mixture for the topping to be sprinkled on after baking (optional)
- Bake for about 30 minutes until bubbling and golden and serve with the crumbs scattered on top and torn fresh basil leaves.
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