Lasagne parmigiana is the result of a gastronomical marriage between two of the most loved Italian classics: lasagne and aubergine parmigiana.
Easy and relatively quick to prepare – compared to the traditional meat lasagne, which needs hours to stew the ragù – lasagne parmigiana is delicious, and a great way to introduce a misunderstood vegetable into your diet: aubergine.
Raise your hand if you've ever wondered what to do with this big, purple, bulbous vegetable, apart from maybe roasting it. And that’s a shame, because aubergines are very versatile and one of the key vegetables in the Mediterranean diet.
Try using aubergine in this lasagne parmigiana: I am sure it will soon become a favourite.
- The classic pasta alla puttanesca
- Pugliese green beans in tomato sauce
- Peperoni imbottiti, Italian stuffed peppers
Ingredients (serves 8)
350 g fresh egg lasagne sheets
300 g grated Parmesan
3 large aubergines
3 mozzarella balls (about 125 g each)
2 tins of chopped tomatoes (around 400 g each)
200 ml tomato passata
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsps shredded basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Slice the aubergines lengthways about ½ cm thick. Layer them in a colander, alternating with salt, and put a plate on top weighted down with a bottle of water. Leave to rest for at least 30 minutes (ideally one hour). This will drain all the bitter liquid contained in the vegetables, making them more palatable and easy to digest. Once ready, rinse them carefully and pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel.
2. In a large pan, heat some vegetable oil (not olive oil: for frying it is better to use sunflower oil), and fry each slice on both sides until they take a nice golden colour. Put them on a plate lined with kitchen towel. If you prefer, you can grill them instead. Set the cooked aubergines aside.
3. Prepare the tomato sauce: place a pot with 4 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil on very low heat, add the crushed garlic cloves, and let cook for 10 minutes. Do not fry the garlic, you don’t want it to take any colour: what we want is to infuse the olive oil with the garlic’s essential oil and so to add more flavour to the sauce.
4. Add the two cans of chopped tomatoes and the passata, raise the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste. Set aside.
5. Boil a large pot of water on very high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the salt and then cook your lasagne sheets for a couple of minutes. Drain them well, and put them well separated on a clean kitchen towel. Preheat the oven to 200˚C/gas mark 6.
6. It’s time now to assemble the lasagne parmigiana: take an oven dish of about 20×30 cm, spread some of the tomato sauce on the bottom, then layer the lasagne sheets to cover the bottom completely (try to place them all the same direction). Spread some more tomato sauce on the lasagne, then layer the aubergines slices carefully to cover the pasta, dice a mozzarella ball and scatter it on top of the aubergines. Drizzle it with some tomato sauce, sprinkle with plenty of Parmesan and a tbsp of shredded basil.
Repeat the operation, making sure that this layer of lasagne sheets crosses over the bottom layer: in this way, when cutting it, it will keep its shape and won’t fall apart. Carry on this way until all the ingredients are used: you should have three layers (if you want more or fewer layers, just count one aubergine, one mozzarella ball and one tbsp of basil per layer). Finish with a layer of lasagne sheets, tomato sauce and abundant Parmesan.
7. Place your lasagne in the oven and let cook for about 40 minutes, or until the top layer has a nice golden tinge. Take it out and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.
If you like, instead of using mozzarella, you can go to an Italian delicatessen and get some provola (smoked mozzarella): your lasagne parmigiana will be even tastier.
You can store your leftover lasagne parmigiana in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to three days. To get the best result when re-heating it, do not use the microwave, but place it in the oven at 160˚/gas mark 3 for about 30 minutes.
The best wine to serve with this dish is a crispy and fruity white, such as a Greco di Tufo.
Silvana Lanzetta. Photo: Private
Silvana Lanzetta was born into a family of pasta makers from Naples and spent 17 years as a part-time apprentice in her grandmother’s pasta factory. She specializes in making pasta entirely by hand and runs regular classes and workshops in London.