Mara’s Melanzane alla parmigiana

GarbatellaIt may look like summer, but we have had some cool days in Rome, unusual for late May. Our condominium just started using email, so my mailbox is abuzz with discussions about installing bicycle racks in the courtyard (very contentious in the past) and possibly some vegetable growing boxes on the roof terrace. The neighbours are nice, and there are dinners now and then, which is where I learned to make this melanzane alla parmigiana. Very tasty, but often a bit greasy, until our neighbour Mara instructed me on the superior, Neapolitan way to bake this.

Ingredients are key, she said. You need the medium purple striped aubergines, not the dark purple ones. The cheese should be fior di latte, a cow’s milk mozzarella, but only from a specific area near Naples. Otherwise you might as well not bother, apparently. All I know is that her melanzane alla parmigiana was rich in taste, but light in texture, and I asked how she managed that.

Frying aubergines
What Romans do wrong, it seems, is to fry the eggplant slices in olive oil directly. That soaks up the oil and makes them heavy and oil-laden. Some people dip the eggplant in flour, not recommended either. No, the trick is to beat a couple eggs, and dip the eggplant slices in that before frying them in peanut oil, then draining them on kitchen roll. Then you get crispy golden eggplant that is still light. Then she sent me home with two of the right kind of aubergines to try making it, which I did.

Draining aubergines

My version of Mara’s Melanzane alla parmigiana

Tomato sauce:
2 cloves of garlic
One onion
1 tsp olive oil
800 gr tinned or fresh chopped tomatoes
3 tbs tomato paste
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt, pinch of pepper
4-5 basil leaves

2 eggs
50 ml peanut oil
2 medium purple eggplants

To assemble:
300 grammes mozzarella (fior di latte, from cow’s milk), thinly sliced

Cut the aubergines lengthways into 4-5mm slices. Beat the eggs. Heat the oil, and dip each slice of aubergine briefly in the egg, allowing it to drip off, before drying it in the hot oil. When golden, turn and fry on other side. Stack the fried aubergine slices on a plate, 2-3 slices a time layered between paper towel to absorb oil.

In the meantime, make tomato sauce. Chop onion and garlic, fry gently in olive oil then add tomato. Add salt, pepper, sugar, basil, and tomato paste. Cook gently under lid 30 minutes or so.

Slice your mozzarella. Now, you have everything ready. Heat oven to 200C.

Take a large baking dish, and ladle in 4-5 generous spoons of tomato sauce. Add a layeer of fried aubergine slices, then mozzarella slices. Repeat layers: tomato, eggplant, mozzarella, until you only have a little tomato sauce left to finish, and a little mozzarella to shred over the top. Bake 30 minutes at 200C until crusty, golden and bubbling.

Melanzane alla parmigiana
Not quite as good as Mara’s, but still so tasty that I barely got to take a picture before it was almost all gone!

Fiesta Friday

I am bringing this to Fiesta Friday, with many thanks to the hosts: Angie @The Novice Gardener and cohosted by two brilliant bloggers, Dini @Giramuk’s Kitchen and Mollie, The Frugal Hausfrau. Many thanks!

Egg-free cocoa cake with ricotta

imageA friend arrives tomorrow, and the guest bed is made up and spare towels are ready. I am looking forward to chats and tea, to catching up, and to enjoying more of this cake. My friend is allergic to eggs, and I was thinking of making these vegan cupcakes, which look delicious. Maybe next time; today, I made this cocoa cake and very nice it was too.

Egg-free cocoa cake with ricotta

2 cups all purpose wheat flour (I used 00)
1.25 cups sugar
100 grammes butter, softened
250 grames ricotta
1/2 cup cocoa powder (dark, unsweetened)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup semi-skimmed milk

Mix everything in a bowl. Heat oven to 180C. Line base of a 24cm baking tin with baking parchment, and scoop batter in. Bake at 180C for 50 minutes or so, until it looks done and a cake tester comes out clean. This took longer than expected, the cake is still quite moist and fudgy but really delicious.


This is adapted from Eggless Chocolate Cake – Made with Ricotta Cheese, many thanks for the inspiration. I just used a bit more milk and ricotta as my batter was dry, cocoa, but the original looks great too.

Tomorrow the flight of my friend arrives at 5AM (arrrrghhh……) so after breakfast I foresee an early stroll to the farmers market, then some tea and cake. Maybe with the first strawberries? Mmmmmmmm……. A good Sunday  coming up.


Fave e pecorino for May Day

fave e pecorino

It is May Day, a public holiday in Italy (as in many countries) and our neighbourhood is deserted. I see lots of laundry flapping in the wind, but many will have gone to the beach, or for a picnic out of town. What many Romans will be enjoying is Fave e Pecorino: fresh fava beans, and pecorino cheese, a combination traditionally eaten today. So that is what we just had for lunch, sweet crunchy fava beans and salty pecorino. Very nice!

imageThere is no cooking involved: take one hunk of pecorino cheese, which is a salty, hard cheese made from sheep’s milk, and cut some wedges of it. Pile up the raw fava beans, in pods, and  everyone peels their own pods. There is a thick membrane around each bean, which you peel off before eating the beans. They taste a bit like raw peas, and go very well with the cheese. With cold white wine, this is delicious. (Also without wine, very tasty too!)

fave e pecorinoHappy May Day to all! I am bringing this to Fiesta Friday #66, as this is a great picnic dish, and very seasonal. Peeling the fava beans takes time, so there is plenty of time for a good chat. Many thanks to the hosts, Angie@thenovicegardener and   Anna @Anna International!

Fiesta Friday