Aubergine and Mozzarella Bake (Melanzane Alla Parmigiana)
This is layered like lasagne but made with aubergine instead of pasta. It is a typical dish made all over Italy, but we like to think it originates in Parma. The men in our family love meat, but they’ll happily eat this veggie dish regularly. It can be served hot or cold,and also as a starter or side dish to accompany Saltimbocca.
- 1 kg aubergine, sliced thinly lengthways
- fine salt
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 1 quantity of Classic Tomato Sauce (see ingredients below)
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 400g freshly torn mozzarella cheese
- 100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- For the Classic Tomato Sauce:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- fine salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 x 400g tins good-quality chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 organic vegetable stock cube
Make the classic tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion for about 4 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic to the onion and cook for 30 seconds; be careful not to let it burn. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar, cayenne pepper and stock cube. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Place a layer of aubergine slices on a plate. Sprinkle with salt and cover with kitchen paper. Continue layering the aubergine in this way, finishing with kitchen paper. Weigh the aubergines down using something heavy, like a saucepan filled with water, and leave for 30 minutes so that the aubergine can release its bitter juices.Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas 4. Brush each aubergine slice with a little oil and heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the aubergine, a few slices at a time, until cooked through and golden on both sides. Add a little more oil to the pan if needed. Once cooked, place the aubergine on some kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil. Reheat the Classic Tomato Sauce and stir through the cayenne pepper. Cover the bottom of a 30cm x 20cm baking dish with 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Top with a layer of aubergine and lightly spread with 4 tablespoons of sauce. Sprinkle generously with mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat these layers (aubergine, sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan) until you have used all the aubergine, finishing with a layer of sauce and Parmesan (no mozzarella).Cook in the oven for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
For a healthier option, lightly brush the aubergine slices with oil and cook them on a griddle instead of frying them.