Aubergine Parmigiana (Melanzane alla Parmigiana)

Remember that time I made this aubergine and broccoli pasta bake? So this is a slight variation from that, with regard to inspiration (and photo clarity. Thank goodness!) I’m slowly trying to get my head around exploring the plethora of options and features on my DSLR, so please bear with me as I share the developments on this forum. Note to self : Automatic with flash is not the ideal setting. Got it.

The Italians really have it down when it comes to food combinations, and their basic approach to food. They know exactly what ingredients work well together, and more importantly, they believe that simple preparations with fresh ingredients always trumps finickity over-the-top excesses. I love the rustic appeal of their traditional dishes with its irregularities and lack of perfection. Like the Japanese concept of something being Wabi-sabi..I’m all over this.

Coming back to what I was saying..this dish is basically a layered bake with griddled aubergines, Parmesan, a quick home-made tomato sauce, finally topped with breadcrumbs and some Mozzarella. It’s quick to make, easy to assemble, and rates very high on the yumminess quotient. Check and check.

INGREDIENTS: (Serves 3)

Adapted from Jamie Oliver

500 grams aubergines, sliced into ½ inch rounds

7 large tomatoes / 1 ½ cans of chopped tomatoes

150 grams grated Parmesan

50 grams grated Mozzarella

10 basil leaves, chopped (plus more for garnish)

1 ½ tsp dried oregano

Red chilli flakes (to taste)

½ tsp sugar

5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

½ cup bread crumbs

Olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Salt

METHOD:

Lay out the sliced aubergines on a tray and season with salt and pepper. Let sit for 5 minutes for the salt to draw out the excess moisture from them.

If using fresh tomatoes, prick the tops slightly with a knife and blanch them in boiling water until their skins start to peel off, about 5 – 7 minutes. Run them under cold water, and peel back their skins completely. Blitz to a coarse purée in a blender and set aside.

Heat a griddle pan / regular pan until really hot and pour a small glug of olive oil. Lay out the aubergines in a single layer and fry until coloured and tender on both sides. (Make sure not to overcrowd the pan and the surface area touches the pan directly; for this, you may need it do it in two or more batches). Remove and set aside.

Add 2 tbsp of Olive oil to another pan and add in the chopped onions and garlic. Once browned, pour in the tomato purée and season with salt, pepper, oregano, chilli flakes, and sugar. Let it come to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes with a lid on, stirring occasionally, until reduced and thickened slightly. Stir in the chopped basil.

Toast the bread crumbs in 1 tbsp of Olive oil and set aside.

To assemble the dish : First pour a quarter of the tomato sauce at the bottom and top with one layer of aubergines. Sprinkle on some of the grated Parmesan and repeat with the tomato sauce, until you’ve used up all your elements. I got 3 layers in a 10″ x 6.5″ dish.

Leave the top-most layer that of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle on the toasted bread crumbs and then the grated Mozzarella. Bake in a pre-heated 180 C / 360 F oven for 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese melted. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve immediately with a side of toasted bread (optional).

 

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