Baked Aubergine with Cheese and Tomato (Melanzane alla Parmigiana)
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For the aubergines preparation:
- 4 Large aubergines/eggplants
- Some plain flour for coating the aubergines
- Sunflower oil for deep frying (if you want to add some extra flavour to the aubergine, you can use a mild or light olive oil available in the supermarket)
- 1 Pack of mozzarella (not balls because they are too watery)
- Some Parmesan cheese shavings
Ingredients for the base sauce (Metric & Imperial measurements):
- 700 grams (1 1/2 lb) Chopped tomatoes in tomato juice (usually two cans)
- 25 grams (1 oz) Butter
- 2 Medium size shallots (finely chopped)
- 2 grams (1/2 tsp) Sugar
- 1 Very small Italian whole dry chilli
- Salt for seasoning
- Some dried basil for seasoning
- Cut the ends off the aubergines and then peel the aubergines longways in order to leave 3 black stripes and 3 white stripes. This is for eliminating part of the skin that some people would find hard to digest. At the same time, we need to leave some skin to prevent the slices from collapsing in the oven at a later stage.
- Now, cut the aubergines in 4 cm thick slices.
- Salt the slices both sides and leave them into the colander for 1-2 hours.
- This is a good practise because the salt helps to take out some of the moisture, otherwise the slices would absorb too much oil during the frying stage. Furthermore, the longer you leave the slices in the colander to drain, the better because you will reduce some of the bitter taste typical of the aubergines (check “preparing aubergines”, featured in the top tips section of the website).
- After leaving into the colander for 1-2 hours, rinse all the slices well.
- Then, pat dry with kitchen paper gently pressing on to the slices.
- Put some plain flour into a bowl.
- Completely coat the slices with flour.
- The slices are now ready for frying.
- Heat the oil and then start putting the slices in the frying pan.
- Fry them for about 3 minutes for each side, not more. You will notice that after this time a fork will easily dig into the slices.
- Put the slices into a bowl with some kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.
Base sauce preparation:
- Melt the butter in a sauce pan.
- Add the chopped shallot and sweat over a low heat for about 3 minutes until it is soft.
- Add the chopped tomatoes into the pan (my tomatoes looks a bit like “passata” because I usually mash the big pieces with a potato masher).
- Then stir gently for few seconds.
- Add the sugar and stir.
- Add a pinch of salt and stir.
- Add the small chilli. Chilli here is used instead of the ground pepper because this is the way I like it, but feel free to use pepper (just a sprinkle) if you like. Anyway, if you use chilli, use a very tiny one because we want to give the sauce just an imperceptible hint.
- Add a sprinkle of dried basil and stir. I normally cook the sauce for about 20-30 minutes to reduce it a bit.
- When you think the sauce is ready, lay some of the sauce in the bottom of an oven dish; let's say about 1/2 cm thick layer (3/16").
- Now, you are ready to put the aubergine slices into it.
- Lay the slices as shown in the photograph. Generally speaking, I try to put 3-4 slices per person.
- Prepare some Parmesan cheese shavings, then cover each slice with them as shown in the photograph.
- Cut the mozzarella in slices 1 cm thick and then cut a square of the size to cover a slice.
- This is what you have to achieve.
- With a large spoon, cover each slice with the remaining sauce.
- Pre-heat the oven at 190ºC (375ºF) and then put the dish in for about 30 minutes or until you see the first signs of browning on the perimeter. When cooked, you can cool it down and cover with foil. Re-heated for 10 minutes in the oven, it will give you a lovely meal for later in the evening or you can put it in the fridge and re-heat it the following day.