Love me some eggplant! Honestly, we don’t give it enough credit. I wasn’t always an eggplant fan. I had it once or twice as a child and remember it tasting bitter. Mom wasn’t fond of it and when mom doesn’t like something, mom doesn’t know how to prepare it. Or so she wanted everyone to believe. Hmmm, good trick. I need to remember it sometimes…
It wasn’t until my daughter and I lived in Germany that I first tried to cook with eggplant or as Germans call it Die Aubergine. It was a Greek version of a dish also popular in Bosnia – moussaka. But hey, that’s a recipe for another post. I learned to appreciate eggplant’s many health benefits, its meaty texture and nutty flavor when prepared right. The trick is in the salt – salt takes all the bitterness out. I can truly say that I love eggplant prepared in any way possible. I liked both Caponata and Eggplant Pasticcio recipe enough to blog about it and I equally like this one. I was looking for a new meatless recipe that is both tasty and fulfilling and I already had eggplant in my refrigerator. I have never made eggplant parmesan until now. Whatever the reason, it’s not even important. Important is that I found another authentic Italian recipe. It was in Italian, which I do not speak, but thank you Google translate! It’s like cars; you don’t want someone else’s version of your BMW – you want it made by Germans, am I right? Ok, I might be alone here.
So Italians claim that eggplant parmigiana did not get its name from Parmesan cheese not because it comes from Parma, but from the word parmiciana which in Sicilian dialect means a stack of strips of wood that form a shutter, the same way the eggplant slices are stacked on top of each other. You learn something every day!
Unlike the most eggplant parmesan recipes, this one does not call for breading of the slices. You still fry them but I feel it is tiny bit healthier without a thick coat of breadcrumbs, flour and eggs. I also don’t like soggy breadcrumbs soaked in tomato sauce. Are you with me on this one? Good. Let’s cook.
2 medium-size Eggplant
½ chopped Onion
1 tablespoon fresh Basil leaves, chopped
24 oz. Tomato Sauce
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
1 Garlic clove, minced
16 oz. thin sliced Mozzarella Cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1 cup Vegetable Oil
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Wash and dry the eggplant. Cut the ends off and slice them lengthwise into about ½ -inch thick slices.
Arrange in layers in a colander or paper towel-lined baking sheet and sprinkle each layer generously with salt.
Let it marinade for at least one hour so that they can expel a good part of the bitter liquid that characterizes them. There’s the trick! Rinse the slices thoroughly under running water and then pat dry them using paper towels. Let me tell you right now: have a whole roll of paper towels ready for this dish, you’ll need it. But it’s all worth it.
Meanwhile start with the sauce. In a pan, heat the olive oil, garlic, and onion. Sauté for few minutes, then add tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt and pepper. I found this tomato sauce at the local grocery store and I will never go back to the canned tomato sauce again. It’s the next best thing to homemade sauce. I used the whole 26.40 ounces, by the way.
Simmer on low heat until sauce has thickened, for about 30 minutes. Add basil and set aside.
In a large skillet heat the vegetable oil, then fry the eggplant, flipping them on both sides, a few at a time so as not to lower the temperature of the oil for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown. Place them on paper towels to dry and dab with more towels (I told you you’ll need a lot).
Grease a baking dish with oil and pour a couple of tablespoons of the sauce, just enough to lightly cover the bottom. Lay three slices of eggplant, cover with sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Top with Mozzarella.
Place another layer of eggplant, this time going in opposite direction, cover with sauce, Parmesan and Mozzarella. Continue until all ingredients are used, ending with eggplant. Cover with the remaining sauce and grated Parmesan cheese. Bake in preheated oven on 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the pan in the warm oven to rest for 15 minutes. Serve over angel hair pasta. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese. If you’re one of those people who can eat cold pizza, you will like cold eggplant parmesan; I, on the other hand, prefer a warm meal. Buon appetito!
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