I really love Melanzane alla Parmigiana, or Aubergine Parmigiana as it’s sometimes called. This show stopping main course dish is both luxurious and indulgent and will impress both vegetarians and meat eaters alike. The top tip with this is to give yourself lots and preparation time, and don’t attempt to make it healthy by holding back on the mozzarella or olive oil as it is these ingredients that really make it sing….(and it is a myth that vegetarian food should is or should be synonymous with healthy eating!).
3 large aubergines
3 cans of tinned tomatoes
30g of tomato puree
4 cloves of garlic
1 large onion
50mls red wine
1 ½ balls of mozzarella
Handful of fresh basil
100g parmesan (vegetarian)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt / pepper
Firstly, slice your aubergines length ways, about 1cm thick slices. Layer the slices up with plenty of salt in between each layer. Place a weight on top. This process draws the water out of the aubergines and they retain their shape during the cooking process. The longer you can leave the aubergines for this salting process, the better, but about 30 minutes should do it if you’re pushed for time.
While the aubergines have been set aside, finely slice the onion into wafer thin bits. Fry them in oil until translucent, then add the garlic until it is slightly cooked, then the tinned tomatoes, wine, puree, salt, pepper and sugar and leave to blip away so the sauce reduces and thickens into a deep red colour.
At this point, I usually pour myself a glass of wine from the rest of the bottle and leave the sauce and aubergines to their own devices for about half an hour.
Pop the oven on at 180 degrees. The aubergines should be covered in a brown salty liquid by now and be sure to rinse each aubergine properly and dry off any excess water. Heat a large pan, ideally a griddle pan if you have one, to quite a high temperature, and fry the aubergines. I normally accidentally set the fire alarm off at this point – so be careful if you live in a block of flats!
While the aubergines are cooking, tear apart the mozzarella into the chunks and wash and pick the basil leaves. When all the aubergines are a brown on both sides, you need to layer the aubergines, tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil up in layers in an oven proof dish. On the top layer, grate plenty of parmesan, and add a few more basil leaves before putting in the oven for a good 30 minutes.
I like to serve this with a peppery rocket salad and some crunchy fresh bread to mop up the juices.