Eggplant Parmigiana is a traditional Italian dish, and it is one of my favourites. (If eggplant is unfamiliar to you, you may know it as aubergine.) Sadly, until recently, I was the only one in our house who liked it. My husband and son are not fond of hot chopped tomatoes and my son did not like eggplant at all. It always seemed a shame to make a big dish of something no one but me liked, so I got to thinking one day that perhaps if I could change the traditional recipe I was following, I might be able to create something with the wonderful taste of the original, but without the ingredients my family did not enjoy. Of course, it was impossible to eliminate the eggplant from the recipe, but I did lose the chopped tomatoes, added some new ingredients and changed the proportions of others.
Anyway, after a couple of attempts I came up with a version of the recipe that was an incredible success. We all loved it, and my son enjoyed it so much that he decided he does like eggplant after all, much to my great delight.
The only problem with this recipe is that it is not very photogenic (either that or perhaps I’m not very good at photographing eggplant parmigiana) so I apologise for the lack of a proper photograph with this post!
Eggplant Parmigiana works really well as a side dish or main course. The recipe below will serve four as a main dish, or five to six as a side dish. It improves with keeping, so it is a great make ahead dish, and will keep for up to three days covered in the fridge.
About 4 - 5 tablespoons olive oil
3 - 4 Eggplants, washed and sliced longways in medium slices
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large clove garlic
1 – 750 ml jar ready-prepared vegetarian spaghetti sauce
OR 3 cups passata (sieved tomatoes)
1 vegetable stock cube
a couple of handfuls of fresh basil leaves
5 ounces Parmigiana Regianno or similar cheese, grated
(be sure to get a vegetarian cheese if you want to keep this strictly vegetarian)
2 eggs, beaten
You need a large rectangular or oval casserole pan, about two to three inches deep, a deep sauté pan and a medium non-stick frying pan. Preheat your oven to 350℉ or about 170℃.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the saute pan and gently fry the onion over medium heat until it begins to go translucent. Grate the garlic into the pan, lower the heat and add the jar of spaghetti sauce. Crumble in the stock cube and stir until it dissolves. Simmer the sauce gently for about twenty minutes, stirring from time to time.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the eggplant slices in batches for about two minutes on each side. Remove and set aside as they are done. You will need to add a bit more oil from time to time. Don’t get carried away though as eggplants will absorb as much oil as you give them - hence my recommendation for a non-stick pan!
Now you are ready for the assembly. Make sure you have your grated cheese and basil to hand and begin to layer the ingredients in the casserole dish as follows:-
Place a layer of eggplant on the bottom and cover with a bit of the sauce and one third of the cheese. Scatter some basil leaves over top. Repeat the once more. Now place a final layer of eggplant over top and coat it with a very thin layer of tomato sauce. Mix the last third of the cheese in with the beaten eggs, and pour this mixture over top of the whole casserole, spreading it out so that it reaches the edges (without spilling over).
Carefully place the casserole in the oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until the eggplant is tender when you slide a knife into the casserole and the egg and cheese topping is nicely browned. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for five to ten minutes before serving.