This classic Italian dish takes a fair amount of preparation, but it’s ideal for making in advance because it benefits from being left to rest overnight so that the flavour develops. Key to its success are a rich tomato sauce and thick aubergine slices. It makes a great starter or veggie main course with a green salad, but I love to serve it as an accompaniment to lamb, chicken, sea bass or halibut.
|1||small onion, chopped|
|1||garlic clove, crushed|
|1 x 400g||can of plum tomatoes|
|2 x 125g||balls of buffalo mozzarella, sliced|
|A bunch||of fresh basil leaves|
|100g||Parmesan, freshly grated|
|Salt and freshly ground black pepper|
You will need a shallow ovenproof dish (about 25 x 20cm).
Put 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a medium saucepan over a low heat. When hot, add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes, until soft and translucent but not coloured.
Add the tomatoes, break them up gently with a wooden spoon, and simmer for 25-30 minutes to create a thick sauce. Season to taste. Press the sauce through a sieve into a bowl and set to one side. Discard the pulp.
Cut the aubergines lengthways into 5 mm slices and sprinkle with a little salt. Leave for about 10 minutes to release their excess moisture. Pat dry with kitchen paper or a tea towel.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large frying pan and shallow-fry the aubergine slices; they should be only lightly coloured.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.
To assemble the dish, spoon a third of the tomato sauce into a shallow ovenproof dish (about 25 x 20cm). Add a single layer of cooked aubergines, slightly overlapping the slices. Follow with a layer of sliced mozzarella, a handful of basil leaves and a sprinkling of Parmesan.
Repeat the process, finishing with a layer of aubergine. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and cook in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until a lovely, bubbling crust has formed.