When I started my 42-week sweet strike, I gave as granted that, although I would keep making desserts, the rate of savoury baking posts would have significantly increased. The other thing I was totally sure about, was that my first savoury post of this low-sugar season would have been aubergine Parmigiana.
I will not go into the details of the controversial origins of this quintessential Italian dish, it is obvious that when something is so delicious everybody would like to claim its paternity. And I am not expecting you to believe that the one here presented is the very traditional article. One of the greatest thing of Italian food is that for the most typical dishes one household correspond to one version of the recipe and this is mine.
I like it loaded with mozzarella and, to compensate the richness, the aubergines are actually not fried; so am pretty sure that purists of the “real” Parmigiana will roll their eyes, to this version, but I don’t mind too much, I know it is delicious and so far no complaint has reached my table.
In Italian restaurants, this dish is often listed as a side, an outrage in my opinion. For me, “Parmigiana di Melanzane” (that is the proper Italian name) is up there among the 2-3 best food of all times and places. It should the piece de resistance of a menu or a meal and it is the perfect main course for a summer dinner (especially in a country where putting the oven on from June and July can actually be a pleasant experience 🙂 ).
4-5 medium large aubergines
2 bags of bread crumbs
100ml of vegetable oil
2.5 kg chopped tomatoes
Basil to taste
3 cloves of garlic
4 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
The tip of a tsp of baking soda
Half a tub of concentrated tomato paste
200gr Parmesan or Grana Padano
Cut the aubergines in slices 0.5-1cm thick and place them in a colander with a generous sprinkle of salt. Let it rest for a few hours. Cut the mozzarella in thin slices and places them in between layers of kitchen towels to dry, you can press them under a weight to ensure most of the liquid is removed.
Cut the onion in thin slices, chop the garlic and gently fry with the extra/virgin olive oil in a large saucepan, add the tomatoes, basil, concentrated tomato paste, pepper and a sprinkle of salt. Adjust the acidity with a little sprinkle of baking soda. Cook at a low heat for a few hours until the sauce has reached a thick and creamy consistency.
Dry the aubergine slices, soak them in the eggs and in the breadcrumbs and place them on an oven tray, when they will be all coated with breadcrumbs pour the vegetable oil evenly on them and bake in the oven at 200°C until golden brown.
Take a deep oven dish, divide the aubergine slides in 3 equal batches and place the first at the bottom of the dish (the slices should overlap slightly). Divide the tomato sauce ideally in 3 equal batches and pour the first on the aubergines. Divide the mozzarella in two batches and place the first o top of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle some parmesan and repeat a second layer of all the ingredients in the same order as the first. Place the last layer of aubergines, pour the last batch of tomato sauce and sprinkle generously with parmesan. The Parmigiana can be now left to rest overnight, or placed immediately in the oven at 220°C until piping hot and the parmesan on top has melted.