There is no neighborhood in Italy where during these summer days someone is not frying eggplants. And in 90% of the cases be sure there’s Parmigiana on the menu tonight 🙂
For lunch, for dinner, and EVEN as a “snack” to bring to the beach (!) Parmigiana is one of the iconic summer dishes.
But by no means it’s limited to summer time.
My mother-in-law makes at least a dozen of boxes during the summer time, while eggplants are in season and have the most taste, and puts them in the freezer.
So you can enjoy DELICIOUS parmigiana for Christmas, New Year’s Eve and beyond (if it lasts).
To prepare Parmigiana for freezing use Aluminum Foil Pans instead of a casserole.
Follow all the steps in this recipe up until baking. You’ll bake Parmigiana once you pull it out of the freezer this winter 😉
With fried eggplant and that much of cheese think Parmigiana is too heavy?
I’m pretty sure not heavier than anything you normally eat, and it’s even super healthy if you grill eggplants instead of frying.
But we’ll go with classic nonna-way, which is frying.
Here are a few tricks to make sure your eggplants are not “oily”.
- Sweat eggplants AND pat-dry with a paper towel before frying. More on that in the recipe.
- Vegetable oil fro frying should be well heated but not “smoking”.
Drop a small piece of eggplant to test it first before you start with you first batch.
- Use paper towels to absorb extra oil when eggplants are fried.
- This is a trick you might have not heard before: when Parmigiana is just out of the oven, lightly tilt it over the sink and see if any extra oil comes out.
Note: if you really like going heavy, you can dredge eggplant slices in flour before frying.
But who needs those extra calories, right? 😉
Since it doesn’t really effect the taste much anyway.
A lot of times Italian nonnas add chopped onions to the tomato sauce.
In a saute pan first lightly brown chopped onions, then add tomato sauce, let simmer until it’s reduced. Add fresh basil leaves at the end.
When tomatoes are in season, make fresh homemade tomato sauce for the most authentic taste.
I prefer not to use onions at all. I find parmigiana is much more digestible and lighter on the stomach without the onions in the sauce.
If you’d like to add some extra sweetness add a tablespoon of sugar to tomato passata, or use the one made from cherry tomatoes. Without any refined sugar it’s much sweeter than the classic one and totally delicious.
Try not to fill the casserole till the very top. Leave about 1 inch space at the top.
If you casserole is too shallow use an underlying baking pan. This way all the juices coming out from parmigiana when baked will not mess your oven.
Now you have all the secrets to make a mouth-watering, cheesy Parmigiana with a golden crust and still keep is light on the stomach
Parmigiana (Timeless Italian Eggplant Recipe)
- 4 large eggplants
- 4 cups passata di pomodoro/ tomato sauce
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese grated
- 10 oz Mozzarella cheese grated
- Handful fresh basil leaves
- Salt pepper to taste
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Large Porcelain Casserole
- Wash and cut eggplants lengthwise into ⅙ inch thick slices. Sprinkle with sea salt and layer in a colander placed over a bowl.
- Let sit for 30-60 minutes, until they start to “sweat” - release liquid.
Squeeze out the liquid you can and then pet dry each eggplant slice with a paper towel.
- Preheat vegetable oil until it’s hot but not “smoking”.
- Do a test with a small piece of an eggplant first. It should start sizzling right away when placed in the oil and float atop.
- Fry eggplant slices on each side for 2-3 minutes until light golden brown.
Layer fried eggplants on a paper towel and with a paper towel in between the layers.
Passata di Pomodoro
- In a large pan placed over medium heat reduce passata/ tomato sauce until it’s not runny as it was from the bottle but also not too thick as tomato paste. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Once cooked add fresh basil leaves. Stir well.
- In a large casserole add a few spoons of tomato passata.
- Layer fried eggplant over the bottom. Generously coat with grated Parmesan cheese, then Mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat the process until you finish all the ingredients.
- The last layer, as the previous ones should go like this: few spoons of passata -> fried eggplants -> Parmesan -> Mozzarella.
- Bake in the preheat oven at 400F for 30-40 minutes.
Parmigiana tastes ten-times better the second day.
But depending on how many of you in the party for dinner it might not last THAT long 😀