If I were to go on a space mission and I had to eat the last meal on Earth before a diet of colorful pills, I would choose a lavish aubergine parmigiana, even if I were already dressed in a white bulky spacesuit and I had one foot on the shuttle.
If 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 aubergine parmigiana.
If out of the blue you ask me what I would like to eat in any moment of the aubergine 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 aubergine 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.
If you had not yet understood, the aubergine parmigiana, or as we call it the melanzane alla parmigiana, is my favorite dish, as Lost in Translation is my favorite movie and Bruce Springsteen my favorite 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 aubergine 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 aubergines 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 aubergine 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 flavors mature and the biting aubergines and Parmesan 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.
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 aubergines, not grilled, a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano (it is called parmigiana with a reason), 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 - Aubergine parmigiana
- 4 aubergines
- flour, for dusting the eggplant
- seed oil, for frying
- 500 ml (2 1/8 cups) of tomato purée
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- a few basil leaves
- 150 g (5 1/4 oz) mozzarella fiordilatte, finely chopped
- 3 eggs, beaten
- 100 g (1 cups) of grated Parmesan cheese
- Wash the aubergine and cut them into 5 mm thick slices.
- Arrange the aubergine slices in a colander with a good sprinkle of coarse salt in between the layers, put a plate on top of the aubergines then place a weight over the plate. Leave the aubergines on the sink for about 30 minutes, they will be less bitter and biting.
- 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 aubergine slices, shaking off the excess flour from each slice.
- Meanwhile heat the frying oil in a large pan: the best ones are those shaped like a wok: you will use less frying oil.
- Check if the oil is hot enough sacrificing a slice of aubergine: dip a corner in the oil and when it is surrounded by many small small bubbles it means that the oil is hot enough.
- Deep fry the aubergines in batches. Let them brown on both sides, it takes about 5 minutes. When the aubergines are golden and crisp, place them in a dish with some layer of kitchen paper, so that the excess oil is absorbed. Season lightly the aubergines with salt (lightly! they have already been under salt for 30 minutes! believe me when I say it's better to taste them to see how much salt they need, it is not much of a sacrifice). Deep fry all the aubergines.
- Make the tomato sauce. Heat a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a pan with a clove of garlic. When the garlic turns golden pour the tomato purée, add 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 savory and thick sauce.
- Finally time has come to make the melanzane alla parmigiana. Choose your favourite baking dish (about 30 x 20 cm) and spread a few tablespoons of tomato sauce on the bottom.
- Arrange a layer of fried aubergines, pour over a part of the beaten eggs, sprinkle 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. If you have not eaten too many fried aubergine slices - you have my sympathy - 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 (356°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 more tasty.
These are some of the recipes for melanzane alla parmigiana that I found on line 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
- Last but not least, Under the Tuscan Gun recipe for Eggplant Parmesan