Baked layered aubergine
This is the traditional Italian dish that is in my all-time top 5 and my sister Angelina’s absolute favourite dish! It is made all year round and especially on a Sunday. It is the first dish my grandmother used to make me and my siblings when we would arrive for a holiday. The smell is incredible, the taste is unforgettable. It can be eaten hot or cold, for a starter, main course (or desert! Only joking!). As my uncle Pasquale would say: davvero numero uno!
Many regions in Italy claim the invention of the parmigiana and all of them could be true. Each region prepares their own version and all are delicious but none quite like our Nonna’s recipe which has been shared and passed on throughout our family and now to you!
The hardest part of making this dish is trying to stop the people around you (or you) from eating the aubergines once they have been fried!
In Sicilian dialect “Parmiciana” indicates the slats of wood in the window shutters, which remind us of the overlapping aubergine and tomato sauce layers. Some also believe Parmigiana came from Parma in the north of Italy but it is not typical of the region of Parma so this is probably unlikely. However, it is a typical Puglian ‘cucina povera’ dish that is found in all households – with some variations of course!
A classic that never ever, ever disappoints, this Parmigiana di melanzane alla Pugliese is an extremely tasty dish. It does take time to prepare and can be prepared in advance but it is not really one of those light and healthy dishes but for the parmigiana, I suggest you make the sacrifice - I promise you, you won’t regret it!
700 g of long purple aubergines (1cm slices)
100 g of flour
4 eggs (beaten)
1 small onion (chopped)
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 lit of tomato sauce (leftover from the meatball recipe is good)
300 g of mozzarella or scamorza cheese (chopped into 1cm cubes)
100 g of grated Parmesan cheese
sunflower oil for frying
A few basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
150g Mortadella sliced or chopped (optional)
Preparing the tomato sauce:
Make a sauté with the finely chopped small onion and garlic
Add 1 lit tomato pasata, fill the empty jars with a little water – swirl them around to gather the remaining sauce and pour into the other jar then empty into the saucepan
Add a pinch of salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes.
Set aside (can use hot or cold)
Preparing the melanzane
Wash the whole aubergines and cut them into slices lengthwise and with a thickness of about 1 cm.
Dip each slice into the flour (both sides)
Then dip each slice into the beaten egg.
In a large frying pan, add enough oil to for shallow frying and heat the oil.
Add a pinch of flour to the oil to check it is hot (but not burning), when the flour sizzles, the oil is ready.
As soon as you have dipped each slice into the egg, fry them for a few minutes, taking care to cook them on both sides until golden.
Do not overload the frying pan – fry them in batches.
Once golden, place the aubergines on a plate with kitchen paper – you will need a few layers - so you can remove the excess oil.
Putting the dish together:
Preheat your oven to 180
This dish is all about the ‘layers’.
Pour a ladle of sauce onto the base of a baking dish.
Without overlapping them, arrange a first layer of aubergines across the baking dish.
Scatter a handful of the chopped mozzarella (or scamorza) onto the aubergine layer.
If adding the mortadella, add a layer now.
Add another layer of sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
Repeat the process of layering: aubergine, mozzarella, (mortadella), sauce, parmesan.
Aim for two to three layers (depending on tray size)
Finish with a final covering of parmesan on top of the sauce then bake for 30-45 minutes in a hot oven.
Your Parmigiana di melanzane alla Pugliese is ready when the topping is beginning to burn around the edges (we love those bits).
If you can keep your hands off it, let the parmigiana rest so that the flavours can develop and it cools slightly, then serve on plates or better still – to really give this dish the honour it deserves, serve it at the table!
150g of chopped mortadella or ham is usually included in each layer for an authentic Puglian dish.
Don’t be scared to let the top burn – it makes the dish even more tasty!
This dish can be eaten hot or cold and can be reheated in the oven or microwave.
Serve with a bottle of our fabulous Terre Di San Vito’s Il Vescovo award-winning red wine.