Cookbook:Melanzane alla Parmigiana
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Melanzane alla Parmigiana is a typical Italian dish, existing in different forms in most parts of Italy. Northerners claim it as their own because of the name. Southerners, in particular Sicilians, claim that it originated in the south and that "Parmigiana" is a misunderstanding for "Palmigiana", which is a type of shutter, alluding to the way in which the eggplant slices are laid. There are some variations (including a dessert version with chocolate) but mostly the ingredients are: eggplants, tomato sauce, basil leaves, mozzarella, and, obviously, Parmesan cheese.
- 2 kg/4 lb eggplants
- 700 g/24 oz fresh cooking tomatoes, or one large or two medium cans of plum tomatoes
- 1 kg/2 lb cows' milk mozzarella cheese, known in Italy as fiordilatte
- ½ large or 1 medium onion, sliced
- olive oil
- fresh basil leaves
- Parmesan (Parmigiano) or Grana Padano cheese
- Cut eggplants lengthwise in slices ¼ of an inch (0.75cm) thick and put them in a plate covered by plenty of salt for about 1 hour. Wash off the excess salt and dry the slices with a paper towel.
- Prepare a tomato sauce as follows. Start cooking the onion slices in olive oil; when the onion is soft add drained whole tomatoes and mash them with a fork. If the tomatoes are watery, add a small can of tomato paste to thicken the sauce. Add 2 leaves of basil and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- While the tomato sauce is cooking, fry the eggplant slices as follows. Fill a frying pan (cast iron if you have it) with ½ inch (1 cm) of olive oil and heat. When the oil is hot, start frying the eggplant slices a few at a time so that they do not overlap in the pan. Cook until golden, flipping once. Remove the eggplants and put them in a drainer so the excess oil can drain. Repeat until all the slices are cooked.
- To assemble the Parmigiana, start with a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of a greased oven proof baking pan or casserole. Then proceed with a layer of eggplants with their edges slightly overlapped and no voids. Then add basil leaves and a layer of sliced mozzarella. Continue alternating layers until the eggplant is used up, and finish topping with tomato sauce and grated Parmesan or grana. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes at 350°F (180°C). Serve really hot. If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, they taste even better the day after.