- Gluten Free
- Difficulty: Average
- Prep time: 40 min
- Cook time: 100 min
- Serving: 8 people
- Cost: Average
All you have to do is mention it to get an ovation at the table. The queen of single-course meals, the lifter of spirits: eggplant parmigiana. It’s a recipe shared by regions in both the north and south of Italy, all of which claim to be its birthplace: Emilia Romagna, Campania (parmigiana ’e mulignane), and Sicily (parmiciana or patrociane) with some variation in ingredients and ways of assembling it, but all absolutely fantastic! Have you ever wondered where this dish gets its name? The name “parmigiana” is said to come from the Sicilian “parmiciana,” which in dialect refers to the blinds made up of wooden slats stacked on one another: Just think about how the eggplant slices are arranged in the dish and you’ll see the similarity. With only a few ingredients, such as tomato, eggplant, basil, and cheese, you get a flavor-filled dish that’s a symbol of Mediterranean cuisine!
- Black eggplants 3 ¾ lbs (1.7 kg)
- Tomato puree 4 cups (1 kg)
- Fior di latte mozzarella cheese 1 lb (500 g)
- Parmigiano Reggiano DOP cheese 1 ⅓ cup (150 g) - grated
- Yellow onions 1
- Basil to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- Fine salt to taste
- For frying
- Peanut seed oil to taste
How to prepare Eggplant parmigiana
To make the eggplant parmigiana, start with the sauce. Peel and chop the onion 1. Add enough olive oil to a pot to cover the bottom and heat 2. Then add the onion to the pot. Let it brown for a couple of minutes, stirring often so it doesn't burn, then add the tomato purée 3.
Season with salt and add the basil leaves 4. Add a little water to the container the tomato purée was in to rinse it, pouring the water into the pot. Let this cook for 45-50 minutes over low heat 5. In the meantime, cut the fiordilatte cheese into small cubes, setting aside one piece that you’ll use at the end 6.
Place the cheese cubes to drain in a colander positioned in a bowl 7, then cover with plastic wrap and set aside: This will allow the excess liquid to drain off 8. Now, turn to the eggplant: Wash and trim them 9.
Cut them lengthwise into slices around 1/4 inch (4-5 mm) thick 10. Once sliced, fry the eggplant in peanut oil that’s been heated to 340°F (170°C), immersing a few slices at a time 11. As soon as they’ve turned slightly golden, drain on a tray lined with paper towel 12.
If you run out of space on the tray, place more paper towel 13 on top of the eggplant that are draining to create another layer with the newly fried eggplant 14. Lastly, move on to the assembly: Start by adding some of the tomato sauce to a 9x13-inch (20x30-cm) baking dish 15.
Form the first layer by arranging the fried eggplant slices in the dish 16, then spooning over more sauce 17, spreading it evenly, and sprinkling in cubes of fiordilatte 18.
Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese 19 and some basil leaves 20. Start a new layer by adding more tomato sauce 21 and fried eggplant slices, which should be arranged facing opposite directions.
Then add more cheese and basil leaves 22. Repeat these steps until you reach the last layer of eggplant 23, again adding sauce and the fiordilatte that you set aside, torn into pieces by hand 24.
Finish off with grated Parmigiano cheese 25 and bake in a conventional oven preheated to 390°F (200°C) for around 30 minutes 26. When the eggplant parmigiana is finished baking, let it rest for 15-20 minutes before serving 27.
Store your eggplant parmigiana in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, for 1-2 days.
It can be frozen after cooking, maybe already divided into portions, and defrosted in the fridge as needed before reheating.
The ideal eggplants for this recipe are large, oval-shaped, with a nice, shiny dark purple color, and they should be firm to the touch – not too hard or too soft. Even long Neapolitan eggplants work well, though.
Since the eggplant varieties you can find nowadays are much less bitter than in the past, you can skip the step of salting and draining the eggplant. You can still do it if you like, remembering to rinse them well before use in the recipe.
As for the different variations of the recipe, some people flour their eggplant or dip them in egg, or do both.
For the cheese you use, on the other hand, you can go for caciocavallo instead of fiordilatte, like they do in Sicily or Calabria.
You might also want to try adding a tasty extra such as sliced hard-boiled eggs.