Melanzane Parmigiana – Eggplant Parmesan

Melanzane Parmigiane, Melanzane alla Parmigiana, Melanzane di Parmigiana….I’m confused! What the heck is the correct spelling? In my house we simply call it Eggplant Parmesan or baked eggplant. I do not care much for the correct spelling, what I do know is that it is cheesy, comforting, healthy(in a way) and utterly delicious.
It is perfect for Meatless Mondays and I think one of the most popular vegetarian  dishes available in restaurants. Contrary to popular belief, the name Parmigiana does NOT derive from Parmesiano Reggiano which happens to be one of the cheeses that I use to make this dish, but it has a far more interesting origin……. Anna Pomar, the author of  La Cucina tradizionale siciliana, writes :  “This is an ancient Sicilian dish which gets its name from the  Sicilian dialectal word “parmiciana” which are the slats of wood which compose the central part of a shutter and overlap in the same manner as the slices of eggplant in the dish.”

Although interesting to read, it is immaterial where the name derives from, what matters to me is that this recipe fits so many of the criteria I have  when preparing food……comforting, colorful, tasty, cheap, healthy to mention only a few. I serve this as a vegetarian meal or as a side dish to grilled fish or chicken. Either way, I have a whole lot of happy campers around the table when I serve Melanzane Parmigiano!

Melanzane Parmigiano (serves 4)

For the tomato sauce
2 tins of Pomodore Tomatoes
2 sachet of tomato paste
1 large onion – chopped finely
2-3 cloves garlic – crushed
olive oil
125ml white wine
a little water if needed
a big handfuls of fresh basil
about 1-2 tsp sugar

Heat a skillet and add the oil, onion and garlic and saute until onion and garlic is soft and translucent. Take care not to burn the garlic otherwise it will leave a bitter taste in the sauce. When onion is cooked add all the basil as well as all the other ingredients. Let the sauce simmer and reduce down to a thick concentrated sauce….almost chunky like chutney. Remove the basil after cooking  if it bothers you, I leave it in, because we do not mind it….

For the egg plant

1 small eggplant per person or 2 very big eggplants
olive oil
dry oregano
about 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 180 C. Slice the eggplant thinly in discs and brush on both sides with olive oil.season with salt/pepper and oregano.  Place on a baking sheet and bake until soft and slightly browned. Now place one piece of eggplant in an individual oven proof dish and top with some of the tomato sauce, a little parmesan and some mozzarella and repeat the layers until you have about 3-4 slices on top of each other. Top with Mozzarella. Repeat with the other portions and bake the Eggplant Parmesan in the oven for about 10-15 minutes and eat immediately with lots of bread to not waist any of the delicious juices. If you prefer you can  make one big dish instead, just layer the ingredients in a big ovenproof dish. 

On Friday Marisa from Creative Pot and Sigrid (from Cooking and Eating with Polkadot Cupcake) started a cheese slut confessional via Twitter. Towards Friday afternoon quite a few others joined  the confessional and I then suggested a quick event in  a “quest for cheese domination” We were joined by fellow SA blogger export, Jeanne from Cook Sister and we all set off to cook something decadently cheesy over the weekend. The first one up was Creative Pot’s Marisa with an Orange and Goat’s Cheese Tart. Hop over to have a look, it looks so yummee!!