Parmigiana (and mini-Parmigiana)

Introduction

I don't make aubergines (eggplant) very often — and I really only have two main recipes for them. The first one is French Ratatouille (the recipe will be available in another post come summer) — and the other is Italian Parmigiana, which involves layering aubergines with slow-cooked tomato sauce and mozzarella. 

The oldest recipe for the dish that I could find is 200 years old and from the Excelsior Vittoria hotel in Sorrento, Italy, which essentially involves slow-cooked cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic and parmesan. My take on the dish adds wine and a crust of breadcrumbs and parmesan. As slow-cooking the sauce takes time and is not necessarily convenient for a quick evening meal, I also came up with the quicker "mini-parmigiana" version further below, which takes only 15 mins to prepare (+ 30 mins to cook).

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STEP BY STEP

  1. Prepare the tomato sauce: crush 4 garlic cloves with the side of a knife and peel them. Fry them for about a minute in olive oil.
  2. Add the tinned tomatoes and red wine, and bring on to a boil on high heat, then straight back to a low heat and slow simmer.
  3. After about 5-10 minutes, mash the tomatoes with a potato masher, and cook for about an hour.
  4. While the sauce is cooking, slice the aubergines lengthways into thin slices. Place into a colander and cover in salt. This will help remove some of the water in the vegetable and reduce the vegetale's bitterness. Leave to sit in the colander until the tomato sauce is ready.
  5. After an hour, the tomato sauce will be ready. Season with salt and pepper, add the basil (optional) and blend until smooth.
  6. Preheat the oven at 180 C
  7. Cook the aubergines: fry the slices in olive oil on both sides until they brown like in the pictures. Work in small batches. Place each batch in between paper towels so they dry thoroughly.
  8. Time to layer the ingredients in an ovenproof dish. Apply a small amount of tomato sauce at the bottom, add one layer of aubergines, cover with mozzarella, add grated parmesan on top, season with salt, pepper and mixed herbs (optional) and repeat until you use all of the ingredients.
  9. Finish with a layer of tomato sauce
  10. Mix the breadcrumbs with some grated parmesan in a separate bowl, add some olive oil, mix and sprinkle on top of the dish
  11. Place the dish uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes

Mini-Parmigiana

This version only takes 15 mins to prepare and 30 minutes to cook and required a smaller oven dish. The ingredients are almost the same as above except for the use of passata, but you only need half of the quantities.

step by step

  1. Slice the aubergines into 5 mm thick slices lengthways, then halve them and salt them. No need to put them in a colander — the salt here is to make the aubergines less bitter
  2. Preheat the oven at 180C
  3. Prepare the sauce — add 400-500g passatta in a sauce pan, with chopped garlic, fresh basil, salt & pepper to taste. Cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Fry the aubergines as in the previous recipe, you don't need to go as brown as in the previous recipes as the pieces are smaller. Don't forget to layer them in between paper towels, this helps to dry them and give the parmigiana texture
  5. Start layering in your small ovenproof dish — as previously, start with some of the tomato sauce, followed by aubergines, grated mozzarella, parmesan, salt, pepper, mixed herbs and repeat 2-3 times as necessary. End by pouring the remaining tomato sauce on top — you want this to be wet.
  6. For the topping: mix 50g breadcrumbs with grated parmesan, add olive oil until you get the texture of wet sand, and sprinkle over the dish.
  7. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
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Ingredients

Serves 4.

  • 2 aubergines (eggplants)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 800g tinned tomatoes — or passatta for the mini-parmigiana version.
  • 200 mL red wine (I prefer a red Burgundy)
  • 250g grated Mozzarella
  • 100g Parmesan, grated
  • basil (optional)
  • mixed herbs (optional)
  • salt & freshly ground pepper
  • olive oil

For the topping:

  • fine breadcrumbs
  • grated parmesan
  • olive oil