recipe: aubergine parmigiana

Aubergine Parmigiana. It’s no surprise that it is made of aubergines and parmesan. It seems to pretty much do what it says on the tin, but trust me that not all dishes are made equal. This recipe is inspired by a dish that I ate in a sunny Sicilian piazza and sums up the beauty of rural Italian cuisine. You’re probably bored of hearing me say it but in my opinion it is hard to beat beautifully grown ingredients that have been cooked with care.

Aubergine Parmigiana to me has often been a steaming hot bowl of slightly sloppy aubergines, slathered in cheese and almost like molten lava. In my book you can’t go too wrong with melted cheese but I always felt that the dish was somewhat lacking; that day in Sicily showed what I have been missing all these years.

This makes a fantastic light dinner for 2 or a delicious summery starter for 4 and you can even make use of that bbq to cook the aubergine. Give it a go for a taste of Sicilian sunshine; if you can access some delicious summer tomatoes then feel free to chop them finely and substitute them for the tinned tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • 2 aubergines
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 400g tin of plum tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp parsley, chopped finely
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ball of mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 75g breadcrumbs
  • 100g parmesan, grated
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • green salad, to serve

Method

  1. Trim the ends from the aubergine and cut into 1/2 inch slices lengthways (try to have an even number of slices and ideally a number divisible by 3).
  2. Brush both sides of each aubergine slice with oil. Cook the aubergine on a griddle pan or the bbq for approximately 3-4 minutes each side. The flesh should be starting to soften and yield but they should not be entirely cooked through and should still hold their shape. Place the aubergine to one side.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until softened.
  4. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and fry for 1 minute.
  5. Add the can of tomatoes, together with a half a tin of water, and the tomato puree. Bring this to a simmer.
  6. Add the oregano, parsley, salt and balsamic vinegar. Stir and simmer for 15 minutes until thickened. You want to make sure that there are no thin juices.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Line a large baking tray with tinfoil and brush this with oil to stop things sticking.
  8. Place a piece of aubergine on the tray, top this with a good spoonful of sauce, a layer of breadcrumbs, some mozzarella and parmesan. Repeat this process so that you have used 3 slices of aubergine per stack.
  9. Finish the top of each stack with more sauce, breadcrumbs, mozzarella, parmesan and a sprinkling of dried oregano.
  10. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is browned. Allow the aubergine to cool for 5 minutes before serving so that it firms up a little.

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