This is my version of the recipe and is how my Sicilian mother-in-law used to make it. It’s simple and yet very tasty. No breadcrumbs, mozzarella or other ingredients, just aubergines, basil, parmigiano and a tomato sauce. In Sicily its an antipasto not a main course so I always eat it with fresh crusty bread.
Don’t eat it directly from the oven as it’s too hot to appreciate the flavours. Wait until it is luke warm or even room temperature.
I always make more of both the aubergine slices and the sauce than I need for this dish so that I have some left over to use with pasta. There is nothing better than a plate of spaghetti with the tomato sauce and slices of fried aubergine on top and a sprinkle of parmigiano.
Melanzane alla Parmigiana
4 medium aubergines (eggplants)
Vegetable oil for frying
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large onion (or two medium ones), finely chopped
600ml of passata di pomodoro (or you can use two tins of peeled plum tomatoes that you put through a mouli to remove the seeds)
Plenty of fresh basil leaves
100g finely grated parmigiano (Reggiano is the best but Grana Padano is also good)
1. Cut the tops and a small amount from the bases of each aubergine and with a peeler remove some of skin (just random strips)
2. Cut into 1.5cm thick slices and place in a large colander and sprinkle liberally with salt. Leave the slices for 30 minutes to release some of their fluid. I prefer this method to soaking the slices in salty water
3. Heat some vegetable in a large frying pan and fry the aubergine slices both sides until golden brown. Place on paper towels to remove excess oil. Repeat this process until you have fried all the slices
4. Prepare the tomato sauce. Put a good glug of olive oil in the base of a saucepan (I prefer a high sided saucepan so the sauce doesn’t splatter everywhere). Add the chopped garlic and onion and sweat this until lightly brown. Add the passata di pomodoro, some tomato concentrate and a handful of basil sprigs. Season with salt & pepper. Cook on low heat for 20 minutes
5. Preheat the oven to 160C
6. To assemble the parmigiana, spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a lightly greased ovenproof dish. Add a layer of friend aubergine, a layer of tomato sauce, some basil leaves and grated parmigiano. Repeat the layers (aubergine to parmigiano) until you run out of aubergine. Finish with a layer of sauce and then a thicker layer of parmigiano to create a crust.
7. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes until it starts to bubble around the sides and the top is nice and brown. Remove from oven. Best eaten when warm.