Parmigiana di Melanzane

This is probably Dr Weasel’s favourite supper dish. Parmigiana di melanzane is a layered, baked dish of aubergines (eggplants for all the Americans out there), rich tomato sauce, parmesan and mozzarella. It’s a wonderfully savoury meal to brighten up an autumn evening.

This tomato sauce, simmered for ages until thick and unctuous, is unbelievably good – it’s also very simple, containing very few ingredients. It freezes well, so if you can face seeding and peeling even more tomatoes, make some extra and save it for the sort of snowy day when you need to eat something red. Try it with pasta, or over meatballs.

To serve four with some left over for lunch you’ll need:

2kg ripe tomatoes
4 medium aubergines
3 large onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 handful fresh basil
1 handful fresh oregano
1 mild red chilli
1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 large knob butter, plus extra to taste
250 g mozzarella
Salt and pepper
Grated parmesan
Olive oil to fry

Begin by peeling and seeding the tomatoes. (Cut a shallow cross at the bottom of the tomatoes and pour over boiling water. Fish the tomatoes straight out of the water, which will have loosened their skin, and peel it off. Cut open and discard the seeds.) Cut into small dice.

Dice the onions and chop the garlic finely, and fry in a large knob of butter until translucent and fragrant. Add the tomatoes and finely chopped chilli to the saucepan and stir to combine everything. Bring to a very low simmer, and reduce (this will take more than an hour) to half its original volume or a little less. Bring the vinegar and sugar to the boil in a small pan and stir it into the sauce. Add the oregano and season with salt and pepper. Taste to check whether you need more salt or sugar. Add another knob of butter for a more mellow flavour if you like. Set the finished sauce aside.

While the sauce is reducing, prepare the aubergine. Slice it into rounds about 1 cm thick (salt to remove the juices if you like; with modern aubergines the bitter juices have been bred out, and you’ll probably find you don’t need to salt at all) and fry each round in very hot olive oil (the aubergine slices are like little sponges, so you’ll need plenty), until brown on each side. Drain on kitchen paper and season with salt and pepper.

Set out a layer of aubergine slices in the bottom of a baking dish. Place some basil leaves on top. Pour over a layer of sauce, layer over some mozzarella, then more aubergine, more basil, more sauce and so on. When you’ve used everything up, sprinkle over the parmesan and bake for 45 minutes at 180° C, until brown on top. Scatter over some fresh basil.

Serve with crusty bread to mop up the rich juices.

11 Replies to “Parmigiana di Melanzane”

  1. Yum! The Young Man has recently opined that ‘aubergines are over-rated, really’ (silly him): I may cook this for him to change his mind!

    By the way, I’ve found a very enticing food shop in Cambridge: if you are playing out next week we could have a furtle over there to inspect the stock….

  2. You know me – always up for a furtle. TYM is clearly *wrong*. Which reminds me – there’s an aubergine caviar recipe I’ve been wanting to try. Watch this space.

  3. Aubergines are much maligned – and wrongly so! What can possibly be wrong with a gooey, tomatoey dish like this? And the caviar sound interesting too. Watching the space… 😉

  4. Mmmm, after being transfixed by the photo, and at risk of drooling into my keyboard, i perched the laptop on my worksurface and set about following your instructions and recreating the dish. Yum Yum Yum! It was every bit as delicious as the picture led me to think it would be. Thanks so much for sharing, this will be a regular in our house from now on! I’ve made Jamie Olivers version of Aubergine Caviar, and that was scrumpdiddlyumptious. Look forward to reading about your incarnation!

  5. Amazing! I stumbled across this blog a few weeks ago during university term and all the recipes look fantastic, and I saw this one and knew straight away that I’d end up making it! So I finally found an excuse to do so today, and made it for my parents and it tasted AMAZING! The chilli really gives it a kick!

    I used to work in a vegetarian restaurant and they made a dish very similar to this, and this is JUST the recipe that I’ve been searching for for ages! Thank you!

  6. this is a true labour of love Ive just taken it out of the oven…

    Frying aubergines is a smoke alarm job

    Squeezed all the oil out of the aubergines, Cant wait for it to cool down

    Will be back to look at your other recipes

  7. This is seriously rich. Too much for me but I will try anything with an Aubergine in the list of ingredients…

  8. For those looking for a diet version of this, try grilling the aubergines brushed with a little oil rather than frying. Obviously not much of a diet with all that lovely cheese… ;o) but lighter

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