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.

Aubergines
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!

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8 thoughts on “Mara’s Melanzane alla parmigiana

  1. Hilda

    Thanks for the tips on frying the aubergine. Can’t figure out the difference in the colour of the vegetable though, but I’ll take Mara’s word for it.

    Reply
    1. krumkaker Post author

      Thanks! There are long and round aubergines here, and dark shiny purple-black ones and lighter purple striped ones, I cannot taste much difference myself….. But I see some use flour, or flour and egg, so I will try the variations and see.

      Reply
  2. myhomefoodthatsamore

    My mother in law from the Marche does the trick of dipping the aubergines in flour first and then in egg wash before frying them. I, on the contrary, do indeed flour-coat the aubergines before frying them … and the result is .. well, really good. I do, however, fry them in olive oil. No other oil will do for this particular dish. It is a special dish …it takes a lot of time and preparation, and for that reason … only the best will do. And by the way, the Sicilians also fry them directly in olive oil, the Romans weren’t part of this gastronomic picture at all (it is a Campania/Sicilia dish born of the Regno delle Due Sicilie age, before Italy became a nation).

    Reply
    1. krumkaker Post author

      Good to know! I wondered about the peanut oul, that may be a family preference since olive oil would be more commonly used. I will definitely try your flour-dipping technique next time.

      Reply
  3. FrugalHausfrau

    Thank you so much for sharing all the tips and hints! I don’t know if I can find those eggplants here, probably not, but I do think the egg is probably the best hint ever! I’ve had a lot of trouble with the eggplant absorbing too much oil but this looks fresh and lovely.

    This is a great addition to Fiesta Friday! Thanks for sharing it.

    Reply
  4. Ginger

    What a lovely recipe, I really like aubergines but I am a bit on my own on that one as the kids refuse to touch them. Perhaps battering and frying will do the trick? They are, after all, British … 😉

    Reply
    1. krumkaker Post author

      Indeed, most things are delicious when battered and fried. PS am in London for a long weekend and have covered Waitrose, Chinese takeaway, and flavoured coffee, but not fish and chips yet. Longer weekend needed!

      Reply

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