All good vegetable dishes should be able to be eaten hot or at room temperature, and the Italian dish parmigiana di melanzane is no exception. This is why it has become a favourite recipe in our families for summer picnics as well as family gatherings at home. You can make an even meatier version by alternating thin slices of veal schnitzel with the eggplant. The binding of the ingredients is essential in this recipe so be generous with the cheese.
- 4 eggplants (aubergines), cut lengthways into 1 cm-thick slices
- 1 cup (150 g) plain flour
- 3 eggs, beaten
- olive oil, for shallow-frying
- 1 quantity sugo alla bolognese (a basic Italian tomato sauce with fried beef mince mixed through)
- 2½ cups (250 g) grated mozzarella
- 2 cups (160 g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Standing time 30 minutes
Layer the eggplant in a colander, salting each layer as you fill the colander. Leave to stand for 30 minutes.
Place the flour in a shallow bowl and season with a pinch of salt. Put the eggs in another shallow bowl and beat lightly.
Preheat oven to 180°C (fan-forced).
Heat a large frying pan over high heat with enough oil for shallow-frying. Take the eggplant and shake off any excess liquid. Working in batches, dip the eggplant first in the flour, then in the beaten egg and then fry in the hot oil for 2–3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Set aside to drain on paper towel.
Take a deep ceramic baking dish (ours is 30 cm x 25 cm x 6 cm deep) and place a ladleful of bolognese sauce on the bottom.
Top with a layer of eggplant, spoon over enough bolognese sauce to cover the eggplant, then scatter over about one-fifth of the mozzarella and Parmigiano. Repeat until you have used all the eggplant, bolognese sauce, mozzarella and Parmigiano, finishing with a scattering of Parmigiano. (You will probably have four or five layers, depending on the size of the eggplant.)
Bake for 40 minutes, until the top of the parmigiana is golden.
Slice into squares and serve hot or at room temperature.
Angela Villella and Teresa Oates are the co-authors of Mangia Mangia.