If I were to go on a space mission and I had to eat the last meal on Earth before a diet of colourful pills, I would choose a lavish eggplant parmigiana, even if I were already dressed in a white bulky spacesuit and I had one foot on the shuttle.
When I have an afternoon craving, one of those sudden pangs of hunger that make you feel like chocolate, chips or doughnut filled with cream, nine times out of ten I’d rather have a warm dish of eggplant parmigiana.
If out of the blue you ask me what I would like to eat in any moment of the eggplant season, and especially in the last days of summer when the daylight hours are getting shorter and you start to feel a nice chilly, my answer would always be an eggplant parmigiana. No, I lied. The answer would be the same even during the heath of mid-August or in the rigours of winter, without offending the seasonality of vegetables.
Eggplant parmigiana is my favourite dish
If you had not yet understood, the eggplant parmigiana, or as we call it the melanzane alla parmigiana, is my favourite dish, as Lost in Translation is my favourite movie and Bruce Springsteen my favourite singer: they hold a special place in my heart.
I am pretty sure I had melanzane alla parmigiana as an afternoon snack more than once when I was a child, stealing the leftover lunch from the fridge, eating them guiltily cold, leaning against the kitchen counter. I am not able to savour it with small delighted bites, I always have big mouthfuls, I get embarrassingly greedy when I’m dealing with eggplant parmigiana, or simply with the slices of fried eggplant. If it is true that fried is good also a slipper – as we say in Tuscany -, the fried eggplants reach inconceivable levels.
I’m a generous person, I love sharing food with other people, and when I choose something from a tray I tend to take the smaller piece or the less impressive, it is a form of innate modesty. I always do that, but for melanzane alla parmigiana.
When eggplant parmigiana is served at the table I quickly choose the largest serving, the one oozing mozzarella and parmesan, the one with the golden crisp crust. I wolf it down even if it is scorching hot, even if I consciously know that it would be better when it’s warm, when the flavours mature and the biting eggplants and Parmigiano are more pronounced. But I can not resist. Luckily there’s always a left serving, and then with the leftovers I get my glorious moment.
My grandma’s recipe for eggplant parmigiana
This is my grandma’s recipe. Do not start an argument, please! This is not THE recipe for melanzane alla parmigiana – or parmigiana di melanzane, if you prefer – this is a recipe, the recipe I like, the recipe I ate during my childhood and the same recipe I have now, every now and then. It always comes with all the options: fried eggplants, not grilled, a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano, a mozzarella still dripping milk and beaten eggs. I still wonder why I eat my favourite food only once every two years…
Now just read my version, then at my signal unleash hell and tell me which is your version for melanzane alla parmigiana, or at least which would be your last meal.
Melanzane alla Parmigiana - Eggplant parmigiana
- 4 eggplants
- 4 tablespoons flour, to coat the eggplants
- vegetable oil, for frying
- 500 ml (2 1/8 cups) tomato purée
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- a few basil leaves
- 150 grams (5 1/4 oz) mozzarella fiordilatte, cubed
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 100 grams (1 cup) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- Rinse the eggplants and slice them into 5 mm thick slices.
- Arrange the eggplant slices in a colander with a good sprinkle of coarse sea salt between the layers. Put a plate on top of the eggplants, then place a weight over the plate. Leave the eggplants in the sink for about 30 minutes: they will release the bitter water, and will be sweeter.
- After this time, rinse all your slices under running water and arrange them on a towel. Pat them dry.
- Scoop some flour into a bowl and coat the eggplant slices, shaking off the excess flour from each slice.
- Meanwhile, heat the frying oil in a large pan: the best ones are shaped like a wok: you will use less frying oil.
- Check if the temperature is right by dipping the handle of a wooden spoon in it: if it is immediately surrounded by tiny bubbles, the oil is ready to fry the eggplant slices.
- Deep fry the eggplants in batches. Let them brown on both sides, it takes about 5 minutes. When the eggplants are golden and crisp, place them on a plate lined with kitchen paper, so that the excess oil is absorbed.
- Make the tomato sauce. Heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan with a clove of garlic. When the garlic turns golden, pour the tomato purée, add half a cup of water and some fresh basil leaves—season with a pinch of salt. Cook the tomato purée for about ten minutes, until it has lost the taste of raw tomatoes and has become a savoury and thick sauce.
- Finally, the time has come to make the melanzane alla parmigiana. Take a 30 x 20 cm baking dish and spread a few tablespoons of tomato sauce on the bottom.
- Arrange a layer of fried eggplants, pour over a part of the beaten eggs, top with some mozzarella and a generous layer of grated Parmigiano. Spread the tomato sauce on top and keep making layers, until you run out of ingredients. You should be able to make four layers. Top with tomato sauce, a few pieces of mozzarella and a lot of Parmigiano.
- Bake in the preheated oven to 180°C (350°F) for about 35 minutes, until golden brown on the top.
- Serve the parmigiana warm or, even better, let it cool down completely and warm it again in the evening or the next day, it will be even tastier.
More recipes with eggplants from the blog archive
- Stuffed eggplants. I chose a stuffing of ground beef and sausages, but you can also use the same amount of beef and pork ground meat. As for the cheese, after years of loyal use of pecorino, I just fell in love with the depth of flavour of aged provolone, a fabulous spicy and biting cheese from the South of Italy which you should add to your top ten of things to try at least once in your lifetime.
- Baked eggplants. Colours and textures of that once loved recipe surfaced along with the ingredients: eggplants, of course, either the round purple ones or those thin long ones, then breadcrumbs, parsley, capers, garlic and some grated Parmigiano. So there it was, my forgiving recipe, thick slices of eggplants topped with boldly flavoured breadcrumbs, roasted in the oven until golden and crisp.
- Pasta with fried eggplants and mozzarella. Although I could easily eat fried eggplants as they are, such as peanuts, pulling out all my selfishness and strenuously defending my precious bowl of golden nuggets, this time I won this temptation and cooked a good bowl of pasta for my friends. How generous I was! If you overcome the desire for fried eggplants and manage to get to the next step, please try this pasta dish, so hearty and full of flavour. It is the perfect way to celebrate the last days of summer.
These are some of the recipes for melanzane alla parmigiana that I found online and that I liked:
- Eleonora’s melanzane alla parmigiana, it’s really fun the introduction, incredible ow our Parmigiana became a Chicken Parm abroad.
- Jamie’s melanzane alla parmigiana, I am so happy to see they’re very similar to our parmigiana, good job Jamie, keep spreading the Italian food!
- La parmigiana di melanzane di Antonio Carluccio, baked aubergine with cheese and tomato.
- After Jamie and Carluccio, who else but Gennaro Contaldo? Aubergine parmigiana with fresh tomato.