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The Perfect Sunday Lunch...

Melanzane alla Parmigiana is absolute heaven. Exquisite fried aubergines in a rich tomato sauce that oozes with melted mozzarella cheese. It's an easy recipe that is well worth the time. 

The worst part of this recipe is the waiting. It's advisable for it to be ready about half an hour before it's time to serve, as this resting time gives the aubergine a chance to firm up and for the flavours to intensify. You also avoid burning your tongue, as most Italians have done when they haven't had the patience to wait until it cools down. 

Melanzane alla Parmigiana has unclear origins, but it is generally believed to originate in the south of Italy. Some claim it is from Parma in the North. Nowadays, it is enjoyed by Italians throughout the country.   

Note: If you want to serve it in a more elegant style, you can follow the method below, but stack circular slices of eggplant to create little stacks. Great for dinner parties!

Difficulty: Easy
Preparation time: 1 hour
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Quantity: Serves 4
Cost: Low

Ingredients

1kg aubergines/eggplants
1kg peeled tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
500g mozzarella
100g grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Peanut or sunflower oil for frying
Salt to taste
Fresh basil leaves

Method

  1. Wash the eggplants, dry them and peel them. Cut them into slices lengthwise to a thickness of 2 or 3 mm and put them in a container sprinkling them layer by layer with a little coarse salt to help them lose water (it has a bitter taste). Cover them with a plate and put a weight on top. Leave them like this for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by heating peeled tomatoes in a saucepan with a little olive oil. Cook over low heat with the lid on for about half an hour.
  3. Rinse the eggplant slices to remove the salt and dry them very carefully with paper towels. Coat the slices in a little flour one by one.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200°C/390°F. 
  5. Heat enough oil for deep-frying in a small saucepan or deep-fryer to 170°C. To test the oil, you can insert a toothpick. If the oil bubbles vigorously around it, you know it's hot enough. 
  6. Fry the eggplant slices in the oil. When they take on a light golden colour, remove from the oil and leave to drain on a plate lined with paper towels. 
  7. In a baking tray, make a small layer of the tomato sauce at the base. Place a layer of fried eggplant on top, then pour sauce over the top, followed by some grated Parmigiano Reggiano and some diced mozzarella. Repeat this process in layers, until all the ingredients are used up. Finish with a layer of sauce and Parmigiano.
  8. Bake the aubergine pan with Parmesan at 200°C/°F for 30 minutes, until its top is golden. You can help this process by setting your oven to grill mode for the last 5 minutes. 
  9. Remove the tray from the oven and let it cool before completing by spreading some basil leaves on the surface. it's best to serve it warm, not straight from the oven. 


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