Melanzane alla Parmigiana is an aubergine bake very popular in Italy.Its main ingredients are aubergines, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and Parmesan.
The standard recipe requires deep fried aubergines – in some parts of Italy aubergines are even coated in beaten egg before being deep fried, resulting in a very tasty dish but also a calory bomb.
I will show here a lighter version of it that uses grilled aubergines instead; furthermore, you can reduce the quantity of mozzarella or even make it without (even if I do not recommend it); you should not eliminate the parmesan though since, like the name suggests, it is what really gives character to this dish.
NOTE: I am describing the process like we are doing it from beginning to the end at once. If you have enough time or can plan in advance, you can also prepare the grilled aubergines and the tomato sauce beforehand and put everything together and bake later.
For the Sauce (see also Tomato Sauce in Basics):
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 Onion, finely chopped
4 cloves Garlic
Basil (about 20 lieaves, or to taste)
Salt & Sugar
For the grilled aubergines (see also Grilled Aubergines in Basics):
1 kg Aubergines
Olive oil, to brish
250 g Mozzarella, grated
200g Parmesan or Grana cheese, grated
Breadcrumbs (optional), to sprinkle
First, slice the aubergines, rub them with salt and put them in a colander to purge (see Grilled Aubergines)
Then, make the Tomato Sauce, as in Basic but adding the shredded basil leaves at the end:
Sweat the onion in 2 tbsp olive oil
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute
Add the blended tomatoes, using a fine sieve
Simmer for 60 minutes
Towards the end, add the basil
Add Salt & sugar
While the sauce is simmering, grill the aubergines:
Pat them dry
Brush with oil on one side
Place in a very hot pan, oiled side down
Brush the upped side with more oil
When the first side is nicely coloured, turn them to cook the other one
When both the sauce and the grilled aubergines are ready, put the ingredients together in the baking tray:
Spread some tomato sauce on the bottom of the tray
Make a layer of grilled aubergines, making sure they slightly overlap each other
Cover with more tomato sauce
Sprinkle with the grated cheese.
Repeat the operation, making more layers until you use all the ingredients
If you like, sprinkle some breadcrumbs on the top
Bake at 180C for 30 minutes or until the top is nice and crispy.
Rest for at least 30 minutes before serving – this dish is actually better if you let it cool down completely and then reheat it