It is one of Italy’s most famous dishes, yet its origins remain in dispute. The name of this cheesy eggplant bake infers that it is cooked "Parma-style" and therefore hails from the Emilia-Romagna region in the north. "Alla parmigiana" also refers to Parma’s most famous cheese, parmesan, which is frequently included. However, the recipe is just as often dubbed a southern creation due to its abundant use of eggplant.
- 1.5 kg (about 4) eggplants, cut widthwise into 1.5 cm thick slices
- 1 tbsp salt
- 75 g (½ cup) plain flour
- 160 ml (⅔ cup) olive oil
- 700 ml passata
- ¼ cup basil leaves, plus extra, to serve
- 300 g fresh pecorino, grated (see Note)
- 100 g aged pecorino, grated (see Note)
- crusty bread, prosciutto, and burrata (mozzarella filled with cream) with tomatoes and rocket, to serve
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
Toss eggplant with salt and stand for 30 minutes. Rinse and dry with paper towel.
Preheat oven to 200°C. Dredge one-quarter of the eggplant in flour and shake off excess. Heat 2 tbs oil in a frying pan over medium heat and cook eggplant for 3 minutes each side or until golden. Drain on paper towel. Repeat with remaining eggplant, flour and oil.
Place one-third of the eggplant in the base of a greased, deep 24cm round baking dish. Top with one-third of the passata, half the basil, and one third of the combined cheeses. Add half the remaining eggplant, half the remaining passata, remaining basil and half the remaining cheese. Finish with remaining eggplant, passata and cheese.
Bake for 45 minutes or until golden and bubbly, draining any excess liquid during cooking if necessary. Scatter with extra basil and serve with crusty bread, prosciutto and burrata with tomatoes and rocket.
• Fresh pecorino, from delis, is mild in flavour, while aged pecorino, from supermarkets and delis, is saltier, firmer and darker in colour.
Drink 2009 Zonin Nero d’Avola Merlot, Sicily, Italy ($8)
Photography by Chris Chen.