Aubergine Parmigiana is the ultimate comfort food and hands down my favourite recipe for any season. It gives you warmth in the winter served with warm baked bread and a full bodied glass of red wine yet it is light enough and tastes just as good in summer dining al fresco with a side salad and a crisp cold glass of wine.
I’ve been making this recipe for years, but it wasn’t until recently when my good friend showed me her way of making parmigiana that it hit another level of gastronomic taste explosion and quickly jumped to “best recipe ever” in my cookbook. My friend Laura lived in Italy for a few years where she perfected her parmigiana recipe. There are a few crucial steps, that while at times seem a fair amount of effort, they are 100% necessary and worth it.
The dish is so simple and only uses the freshest ingredients. Four main ingredients (and a few condiments) to be exact. The aubergines, basil, mozzarella and cherry tomatoes all bring their own incredible flavours to the dish that it barely needs anything else. It’s the process in which you make it that’ll take this dish to the next level.
Time: 1hr30 min – 2 hrs
Serves: 2-4 people
- 3 x Aubergines
- Bunch of Basil
- 250g Mozzarella (equivalent of two balls)
- 750g Cherry Tomatoes
- 2 x Eggs
- Plain Flour
- Olive Oil
- Fresh Breadcrumbs
- Parmesan Cheese
- Salt and Pepper
- Honey (optional)
Set oven to 180 degrees.
Finely slice the aubergines and layer up in a colander. Salt each layer before adding the next. Leave for 30-45 minutes for juice to drain off them.
Meanwhile, put a splash of olive oil in a pot with all the cherry tomatoes and place the pot lid on. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Check on them at around 15 minutes, give the tomatoes a stir to make sure they are turning to sauce. Add a sprinkling of salt at this stage.
Chop the mozzarella into small slices and tear the basil leaves apart. Discard the basil stalks and chop the leaves up and set aside.
Blitz the breadcrumbs in the blender (if you are making from fresh bread) and grate the parmesan. Mix together in a bowl add fresh cracked black pepper and set aside for the topping.
By this point the aubergines should be salted and excess dark juice should have drained off them. Pat them dry with kitchen paper or tea towel.
It’s time to set up your aubergine dipping station! Set the aubergine in the colander at the start of the line, beat the two eggs in a bowl and spread the flour on a chopping board. Add a very small amount of oil to a pan and heat to a medium sizzling setting. Take each individual slice of aubergine, dip in egg, roll in flour and place in the pan. Do this until you pan is full with sliced aubergines. Cook on each side for about two minutes (or until golden) and place to the side. This is the most laborious part of the process, but by far the most rewarding.
The tomatoes should have simmered and cooled ever so slightly by this point. If they taste a little acidic or bitter then add a small amount of honey to the sauce. I actually used this Billington’s Dark Maple Syrup this time as it’s marketed as something to use in savoury dishes. It worked just as well as honey does. The sweetness should balance the acidity. Use a stick blender or put in a food processor and blend until fully smooth. Taste test and add additional salt if needed, but I find the less salt the better for this sauce.
In a baking dish start to layer the aubergine followed by a smothering of tomato sauce and finally mozzarella and basil, keep going with these layers in that order until the ingredients run out. Top with breadcrumbs, parmesan and black pepper mix and bake on 180 degrees for 45 minutes.
The result is a melt in your mouth, gooey and rich dish. The last few dinner parties we have served this as the main meal and it has enjoyed so much by both vegetarians and meat eaters. It really is the star of the show and such a simple dish to create. Enjoy!