Italy Signature Dish: Melanzane alla Parmigiana

Italians living abroad surely miss many things about their country. One of those things is the Parmigiana prepared by their mothers, a dish that no Michelin star chef will be ever able to make better.
It is not only about the quality of the ingredients, the technique or the proper combination of saltiness and sourness. It is about something deeply routed in their hearth that will always let them say: it’s good, but cannot be better than my mother’s.
It is a dish popular in every region of Italy and usually the more you go South, the heavier it becomes. To the basic aubergines, tomato and cheese, each family recipe may also require: prosciutto cotto, mortadella, boiled eggs, buffalo mozzarella and so on.

We would like to show the simplest and lighter version of the Parmigiana.

dsc_0111For a baking pan of about 18×26 cm, good to accommodate 3-4 portions, you will need:

  • 3 fat aubergines
  • 2-3 mozzarella (about 300gr)
  • 50 gr of parmigiano
  • 400 gr of peeled tomatoes with the juice
  • a clove of garlic
  • basil
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

First thing, cut the aubergines in 0.5-1cm thick disks. In a colander distribute the aubergine in layers, alternating the layers with grain salt. Put a weight on the top and let them rest for about 1 hour. This procedure will take out of the aubergines the irritating substance that itches the tongue. You can see the same procedure in our article about aubergines boats.

Cut the mozzarella in 1cm thick disks and let it dry for half hour. If the mozzarella has too much water inside, the Parmigiana will be vert watery.

While waiting for the aubergines to be ready, let’s prepare the tomato sauce. Put the peeled tomatoes in a pot together with olive oil, garlic and basil. Remember not to cut the basil with knife, but tear it with your hands.

To remove the acidity of the tomato, add a tea spoon of sugar. It will adjust the taste of the sauce.

Let the sauce cook for around 15 minutes until the tomatoes will be melted in a homogeneous sauce.

Going back to the aubergines, you will notice that at the bottom of the colander there will be a black liquid, sign that the salt did its duty. Wash the aubergines’ slices under fresh water and make sure to dry them  with cooking paper to remove the water.
At this point deep fry the aubergines in seed oil (sunflower seeds for instance). Aubergines are like a sponge and they absorb a lot of oil. We used a fryer, but a pot full of oil is enough.

Make sure to fry them until they become slightly golden, it should take about 3 minutes.

Now you have all your ingredients ready. Just wait until the aubergines and the sauce have cooled down, so that it will be easier to work with them.

In a baking pan put a first layer of aubergine, then 2 spoons of tomato sauce, 6 pieces of mozzarella and a bit of basil (2-3 leaves).

Keep going with another layer of aubergines, tomatoes, mozzarella and basil until you’ve used all the aubergines (we did 5 layers). Every two layers add salt and pepper

The last layer will have no mozzarella, just aubergine, tomato sauce and abundant parmigiano, grated. The parmigiano will allow the Parmigiana to get a crunchy crust in the oven.

Put the Parmigiana in the oven for 25 minutes, 180 degrees with top and bottom heat on. Then let them cook with the grill function for another 10 minutes in order to create the crunchy crust.

Take the Parmigiana out of the oven and let it cool down for 15 – 30 minutes. Not only it will be easier to eat something that is not as hot as vulcano lava, but it will also be more firm and it will be easier to cut the portions.

dsc_0238Enjoy your Parmigiana and buon appetito!

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