There’s an abundance of aubergines around now and I just LOVE them. I know some people who don’t care for them so much – I hope this recipe might help convert at least some of the doubters.
Aubergine Parmigiana is truly an iconic Italian dish, literally meaning “aubergine Parmesan”. You’ll find it served all over Italy, with variations in different parts of the country and with various regions claiming to have invented the dish. Whoever did come up with this recipe certainly knew what they were doing, so I’m always delighted to see this Italian classic on a menu.
This is comfort food at its finest: slices of aubergine, with tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, baked until golden brown.
Give it a whirl!
It’s fairly straight forward to make at home, so I urge you to give it a try.
I like it served with a simple green salad or a rocket and Parmesan salad.
You could fry all the aubergine slices, I like to fry around half and blanch the remaining slices. It makes for a lighter dish and in no way detracts from its deliciousness.
Aubergines: To Salt or Not to Salt
Older recipes often include an instruction to salt the aubergines. This was to draw out some bitterness from the aubergine, but modern aubergines have been bred to be less bitter, so this tends not to be necessary anymore. Aubergines adore oil and salting can prevent them absorbing too much during cooking, but it can also dry them out. What to do? In this recipe, we just salt the aubergines lightly and briefly as a seasoning for the overall dish. Frying half and balancing half reduces the amount of oil involved in the dish too.
- 750g aubergines (approx 2 medium)
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- 400g tinned tomatoes (1 tin)
- 75ml red wine
- pinch caster sugar
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 6 tbsp vegetable oil
- 150g mozzarella
- 50g Parmesan
- 30g fresh breadcrumbs
- 20g basil leaves
- Cut the aubergines lengthways into 5mm slices, sprinkle with salt and leave in a colander to drain for half an hour.
- Peel and crush the garlic cloves.
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and add the garlic.
- Fry for a minute, then add the tomatoes and wine.
- Mash the tomatoes a little with a fork, stir well and bring to the boil.
- Add a pinch of sugar, a little salt and pepper and the oregano, lower the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Purée the sauce in a blender and food processor until smooth.
- Thinly slice the mozzarella and grate the Parmesan.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4.
- Rinse the aubergine slices well and dry thoroughly between two tea towels or with kitchen paper.
- If you’re going to blanch some of the aubergine slices, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.
- Pour enough vegetable oil into a large frying pan to coat the bottom and put on a high heat.
- Fry half or all of the aubergine slices until golden brown on both sides - do this in batches. You can use two frying pans to speed this up.
- Put the cooked slices on the two tea towels or kitchen paper to drain.
- Blanch any remaining slices of aubergine in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain well.
- Lightly grease a baking dish with vegetable oil.
- Assemble the dish beginning with a thin layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of aubergines, mozzarella slices, Parmesan and seasoning.
- Repeat the layers, finishing with a layer of sauce and keeping a little Parmesan back for the top.
- Toss the breadcrumbs in a small bowl with a little olive oil and the remaining Parmesan and sprinkle on top.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until bubbling and browned, then allow to cool slightly and garnish with torn basil.