This is the perfect time of year to make Eggplant Parmesan or Parmigiana di Melanzane. August is harvest month for the lovely deep purple eggplant in Ontario and most of North America. The eggplants you will find now can be smaller which makes them perfect for the individual sized portions of this recipe.
Many regions of Italy lay claim to the origin of this delicious dish but my favourite version comes from Naples and is one of the best examples of this most interesting of Italian regional cuisines. You can’t go wrong however you choose to prepare it and Italians say that even if eggplant parmesan is prepared badly it still tastes great!
If you can, use a locally produced fresh mozzarella but when you want to go all out try using Italian Mozzarella di Bufala from Italy’s Campania region. Natural Pastures in British Columbia is the only producer that I know of (there may be others) that produces mozzarella di bufala in Canada. And if you choose not to use smoked mozzarella you can eliminate it altogether. Another great choice would be Quebec’s famous Oka cheese. Oka is a semi-soft cheese with a distinctive flavour that could be described as smoky.
Parmigiana di Melanzane
Yield: 6 servings
· 6 Vine ripened tomatoes
· 28 fl.oz (796 ml) Italian plum tomatoes, canned
· 4 cloves Garlic, minced
· 2 cups (500 ml) Extra virgin olive oil
· 4 lbs (2 kg) eggplant, peeled and sliced into rounds
· 1 bunch Basil, whole leaves
· 12 oz (340 grams) Mozzarella, thinly sliced
· 7 oz (200 grams) Smoked mozzarella, thinly sliced
· 1½ cups (185 grams) Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano, plus more for serving
· Sea salt to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 325°
2. In a medium saucepan combine the canned tomatoes, a branch of basil, the chopped garlic, salt and 4 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes – longer if you have the time.
3. When done crush the mixture with a potato masher.
4. Peel the eggplants and slice into ½ inch thick slices.
5. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet until it is very hot, just until it starts to smoke.
6. Place the eggplant slices in the skillet (always remember to drop them in away from you) four or five at a time, until golden brown on one side, then turn to do the other side.
7. Drain the slices on paper towel and sprinkle as you go with sea salt.
8. Slice the mozzarella, smoked mozzarella and fresh tomatoes into ¼ inch slices.
9. Wash the basil leaves, pat dry and remove the stems.
1. In a 9x13 inch baking dish or pan place a layer of the crushed tomato mixture on the bottom of the baking dish
2. Add a layer of the eggplant.
3. Then a layer of the sliced fresh tomato and one or two basil leaves.
4. Next a layer of the mozzarella and smoked mozzarella and 3-4 tablespoons of the Parmigiano Reggiano/Grana Padano.
5. Start again with another layer of eggplant and repeat with the other ingredients.
6. Make at least three layers of eggplant and 2 layers of the cheese and tomato.
7. Bake uncovered for approximately 30 minutes and allow to cool slightly before serving.
8. Garnish with some of the remaining whole basil leaves and sprinkle with more grated Parmigiano Reggiano/Grana Padano for serving.
Adapted & inspired by Benedetta Vitali