Zazulete Ynn Anuca Romanta Ion
A classic Italian that happens to be one of my favorites, melanzane alla parmigiana - eggplants with parmesan (also called parmigiana di melanzane) is a simple, healthy and savory autumn must-cook. You can find many variations of this recipe all throughout Italy, depending on the region. This article introduces one of my own variations of melanzane, the simplest, faster version of it, which not surprisingly is also the healthiest.
The dish is the tastiest, perfect mélange of eggplants, cheese, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and basil, a classic feast of Italian ingredients. Normally, to cook melanzane alla parmigiana the traditional way, granny style, one needs to fry in olive oil each piece of eggplant, and then place them in the tray (a technique similar to how we cook the eggplants for the Greek moussaka). However, the easier, healthier way is to skip this step with this recipe and just add the raw eggplants, since the oven cooking is enough to release their sweetness. Another step that I skipped is the standard salting of the raw eggplants before cooking them (which removes some of the bitter juices). Especially when you have exquisite eggplants, sweet and fresh like I had here, you may also skip this part for this dish.
A nice touch to this basic eggplant-cheese dish is that it gives you the possibility to use, apart from parmigiana, a verity of local cheese, which is what happens in Italy as well, where either mozzarella, cottage cheese, fior di latte or even mascarpone and many other sortiments of cheese are added, depending on the region. I do recommend for this recipe to have at least one part of the cheese as melting cheese, mozzarella, cheddar or gouda type of cheese, for part of the charm and deliciousness of melanzane is the mélange of eggplants with melting cheese.
INGREDIENTS (6 servings)
1 1/2kg eggplants
800g chopped tomatoes (or your favorite tomato sauce, you can check one of mine here)
300g grated parmesan
400g mozzarella (or other melting cheese)
300 g other cheeses (I used about 150g cottage cheese and 150g telemea)
50g garlic powder
extra virgin olive oil
basil leaves to taste (I used 5 medium branches of fresh homegrown basil)
One of my secrets of this particular recipe is the use of dry garlic powder instead of fresh crushed garlic, since its taste elevates the eggplant-parmesan combination. If you can't find it, you may use simple crushed garlic (about 1 head for this quantity) that you mix with the tomato sauce/chopped tomatoes before spreading it on the eggplants.
Cut the eggplants in 1cm round slices and add them for your first layer in the chosen tray. I used a ceramic tray that I prefer for this recipe, but you can use any oven tray or pot that allows you to make at least two layers with the eggplants you have. Sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil. No one will mind if you enjoy a glass of delicious must in the meantime. It will help you concentrate.
Since I had 3 layers of eggplants in this tray myself, I am going to add now 1/3 of the chopped tomatoes and layer them all over. On top of the tomatoes, sprinkle 1/3 of the garlic powder quantity, a few fresh basil leaves, about 75g of parmesan and half of the other cheese quantity, in this case mozzarella, cottage cheese and telemea.
Repeat the above steps until all your eggplants are purposefully lined up in the tray. For the top layer, just add eggplants, sprinkled with olive oil and tomatoes and garlic powder, and only parmesan and a few basil leaves (keep the melting cheese and the other cheeses in the middle layers).
Place the tray in the oven at 220°C for about 45-50 minutes, until the top layer is crispy golden and the eggplants are soft when pinched with the fork. Add more fresh basil leaves before serving.
You can use the same recipe for creating individual servings in small earthenware or ceramic cookware.
Melanzane alla parmigiana can also be served cold, I sometimes even prefer it like this, and you can store it in your fridge for a while and then serve it as part of sandwiches, salads, side dishes or omelettes (chopping this eggplant/cheese yum and mixing it with beaten eggs and sour cream makes for a delectable omelette).
Cover photo: Thao Uyen
A melting pot experience, in more than one way. Welcome to our Epicurean adventure!