Eggplant Parma with all the flavour but way less fat!
Happy New Year! I know, January is almost over, so I’m a little late, but its not until school starts that I get some semblance of routine and order returning to the household. And some time and space to get on the computer to do a blog post. So we are starting with an old favourite of mine – Eggplant Parmigiana. This was on high rotation for dinner parties as a side when the children were younger. Often served as a side with veal scallopine. Very yummy but not so forgiving on the culo as you get older. I used to fry the eggplant til golden brown and meltingly delicious. Eggplant will take all the oil you want to give it, and then some, so it was sort of a guilty pleasure. Until I realised I could bake the eggplant. Ta Da! Still all the flavour WITHOUT all the oil!
Not everyone in the family shares my eggplant enthusiasm, so this is usually a meal we have with guests as part of an italian feast. This recipe is a variation on one gifted from my neighbour. It takes some time but is very easy to make.
Start with your eggplant. Choose dark glossy ones that are heavy for their size. Cut into 1 cm slices and sprinkle generously with salt and leave for 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. Lay on to baking trays lined with paper. You could give a little spray with oil if you wanted, but honestly it is not necessary. Bake in a moderate oven for 20- 20 minutes, turning mid way through, until soft.
I know, I know, it is not beautiful and golden as when you fry BUT you won’t see it, the taste is still there, and those extra calories can be used in wine! Now to the sauce. If you are making this as a side, or as part of an italian feast, please feel free to grab a bottle of good quality passata (I like Mutti ) but this sauce is quick and easy to make. heat some oil in a pan and add finely diced small onion and some garlic and cook until translucent. Add tinned tomatoes (again I like the Mutti pulped ones) and some dried oregano and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and some chopped basil or pesto (I would usually prefer the fresh basil but I had depleted the herb garden).
A dash of balsamic vinegar really brings all the flavours together . Taste and adjust seasoning. Select your baking dish. Of course, we all know that I cannot put round things in a square dish but you can feel free! Start by smearing a little sauce on the bottom of the dish then a layer of eggplant topped with grated parmesan.
Continue until all the eggplant is used up, finishing with a layer of sauce and then extra parmesan and some mozzarella cheese. The mozzarella is optional, but can you have too much cheese? Never! Plus, it makes for a melty golden finish on top.
Pop into moderate oven for 30-40 minutes until cooked through and bubbling and golden on top. If preparing ahead, store in fridge and remove 30 minutes before baking. Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes. Remove foil and cook a further 15 minutes until golden and heated through.
Serve with a green salad and lots of crunchy bread to mop up that divine sauce. Buon appetito!
- 3 eggplants. cut into 1 cm discs
- 1 small onion, diced finely
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- ½ tbs olive oil
- 2x 400g tins of diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ¼ cup of fresh basil or 1 tbs of pesto
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper
- 1 -1½ cups parmesan cheese
- ½ cup mozzarella (optional)
- Salt sliced eggplant and let sit for 20 minutes. Rinse well and pat dry. Place on trays lined with baking paper and bake in a moderate oven for 20 minutes, turning once during cooking time.
- In a large pan, heat oil and fry onion and garlic until translucent. Add oregano and tomatoes and simmer 15 minutes. Add basil (or pesto) and balsamic and season to taste
- Select a large baking dish and place sauce in bottom. Top with a layer of eggplant then parmesan cheese. Repeat layering until all eggplant and sauce used, ending with sauce and a layer of cheese and mozzarella if using.
- Bake in a moderate oven for 30-40 minutes until hot bubbling and golden.
- Serve with a green salad and some bread to mop up that divine sauce