Aubergine parmigiana is possibly one of the most famous Italian dishes, right up there with pasta and pizza.
Erroneously attributed to the north of Italy, possibly because of the name, this dish was in fact born in Sicily more than two centuries ago. A Neapolitan version soon followed, where a batter of flour and eggs is used to coat the aubergines before frying them.
This recipe is a simplified, quicker version of the classic Neapolitan parmigiana di melanzane. It’s delicious served cold, and it’s an ideal picnic food.
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Ingredients (6 servings)
6-8 large aubergines (about 2 kg)
150g grated Parmesan
1 large bunch of fresh basil
Salt and pepper
1. Wash the aubergines, cut them lengthways in slices about 1/2 cm thick. Place them in layers in a colander, sprinkling each layer with coarse salt. Cover with a small plate and weigh it down with a small weight (a bottle of water, for example). Leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.
2. Thinly slice the mozzarella, put the slices on a plate and let them dry in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. You can skip this step, but the dish might end up quite watery due to the large amount of mozzarella used.
3. Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6.
Meanwhile rinse the aubergines and dry them thoroughly. Fry them in vegetable oil until they are lightly golden on both sides. Put them on a plate lined with kitchen paper, to absorb the excess oil. Alternatively, for a healthier version, the aubergines can be grilled until slightly charred on both sides.
4. In a bowl, lightly whisk the eggs with a little salt and pepper.
5. Take an oven dish, measuring about 20cm by 40cm. Brush the interior with a little olive oil, and place a single layer of aubergines, then layer some mozzarella on top, then a layer of basil leaves, sprinkle with Parmesan, and drizzle it with a couple of tablespoons of whisked eggs. Cover it with a layer of aubergine, and repeat the process until all the ingredients are finished. Finish with a layer of aubergines, sprinkle them with abundant Parmesan and drizzle with the remaining eggs.
6. Put it in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, or until the top has become a nice golden colour.
Your parmigiana can be eaten hot or cold. Serve with a fruity, aromatic white wine, 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.