As a young teacher posted to the outback, Rosa Matto began to introduce good Italian home cooking to her fellow staff and local families. She later set up her own cooking school and has taught legions of people to appreciate Italian food. Recipes like this one for eggplant parmigiana are from Campania, where her family comes from. This is a favourite picnic dish, and sometimes Rosa uses zucchini instead of eggplant. It is a little time-consuming to prepare, though the result is always worthwhile and the dish feeds lots of people as part of a spread. (If you also plan to serve the dish at room temperature at a picnic, the recipe is best made without bocconcini as it hardens on cooling.)
- 3 large eggplants
- plain flour
- 4 eggs, beaten
- olive oil
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 750 ml tomato puree (Rosa uses homemade passata), or 800 g can Italian tomatoes, or 12 very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- salt and pepper
- ½ bunch basil leaves, chopped, plus extra leaves for layering
- 250 g bocconcini or fresh mozzarella, sliced
- 100 g parmesan, grated
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 1 hour
Slice the eggplant no thicker than 1 cm. Sprinkle the slices with salt, stack in a colander and weigh down with a heavy object. Leave for 1 hour. Pat the slices dry and lightly coat in flour. Dip into the beaten egg, shaking off the excess, and fry in hot oil until golden brown on each side. Drain on paper towel.
To make the sugo, heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the tomato and bring to the boil. Cook until lightly thickened. Season to taste and add half the basil.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Smear the base of a baking dish with sugo then add a layer of eggplant. Dot with slices of bocconcini, a sprinkling of parmesan and a few torn basil leaves. Continue to layer until you have used up the eggplant, and finish with sugo topped with cheese.
Bake for 20–25 minutes, until the top is golden. Allow to rest for 10 minutes or so. To serve, lift off layers rather than cutting a wedge.