My Grandmother – Nonna Elvira – always shared her kitchen with the family. This is how I learned to cook when I was so young I can't even remember. Having the kids in the kitchen, was the best way for Nonna to keep an eye on us. When she was making ‘Gnocchi’ we got a piece of dough to play with, for Pasta e Fagioli, we were in charge of getting the beans out of the pods, with Carciofi Alla Romana / artichokes our little fingers were stuffing the artichokes with mentuccia Romana – local peppermint.
The upcoming recipe was a piatto forte, Nonna often made for us. A work of love that will impress your family and friends.
Melanzane alla Parmigiana / Eggplants Parmigiana
For 4 people:
- 6-8 medium size eggplants – choose the dark purple thinner Italian eggplants since they have less seeds.
- 1 LB can of peeled San Marzano tomatoes (chopped)
- ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Canola or Corn oil to fry
- All purpose flour
- 2 TBL spoon of celery finely chopped
- 1 medium size carrot
- 1 small onion peeled
- Mozzarella – better if fresh – approx. 1 pound – diced in small cubes
- Grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Some basil leaves
The night before, peel the eggplants and slice them in thin slices along the length of the eggplant. The slices should be no thicker than 1/3 of an inch
Place one layer of the sliced eggplants in the pasta drainer. Because the eggplants will release liquid, place the drainer in the sink. Dust each layer of eggplants with a pinch of salt until all the slices are layered. Cover the eggplants with a small dish and put a weight on the dish (e.g. the tomato can). Leave overnight. In the morning all the bitter juices will be gone and the eggplants will be ready for frying. Dust each eggplant slice with flour and fry in abundant canola oil. Once fried place the slices over a brown bag and pat dry to get rid of the excessive oil.
Place the peeled tomatoes in a pan with a small peeled onion, the chopped celery, carrot, 2 basil leaves and the extra virgin olive oil. Let it simmer for ½ hour on moderate low heat and add salt to taste. Start the oven at 400’F.
Buttered a 9-inch oven-to-tableware pan at the bottom and sides. Place one layer of fried eggplants to cover the bottom. With a spoon spread the tomato sauce on the eggplants, dust with mozzarella and parmigiano. Add layers in the same fashion until all the ingredients have been used. Place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes. Check if the top layer has started to turn light brown. If not leave the pan in the oven for another 5’-8 minutes.
Pull the pan out of the oven and let it seat on the top of the stove for 5 minutes , it will become cooler and easier to cut. Place some basil leaves on the top before serving and bring to the table warm.
Each bite will melt in your mouth. Buon appetito!
Try it and leave us a comment!