Eggplant Parmigiana or Eggplant Parmesan (in Italian Parmigiana di Melanzane) is one of the most successful dishes of the Mediterranean tradition and of Italian cuisine.
This recipe is loved and known throughout Italy, from North to South and has become one of the symbols of Italian cuisine in the world.
Eggplant Parmigiana is a very rich and nutritious baked dish. Eggplant, parmigiano cheese, mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil are the classic ingredients of this delicious recipe.
A bonus of this Italian recipe is that you can prepare it ahead of time, keep in the fridge and then bake when you need it. The next day eggplant parmigiana is even tastier!
Like all traditional Italian dishes, there are some differences in the recipe, not only from region to region but also from family to family. In Sicily, for example, they use Caciocavallo cheese, in Campania mozzarella cheese or buffalo mozzarella. Someone adds eggs, someone else fries the eggplants breaded with bread crumbs, others with just white flour.
So as you can see, in Italy there are different variations of eggplant parmigiana recipe.
The one we are going to show you is the most widespread and famous: traditional eggplant parmigiana recipe.
Eggplant Parmigiana recipe
Doses for a 13×9 inch baking dish.
- Prep Time: 30 Min
- Cook Time: 30 Min
- Yelds: 6
- 2 medium eggplants
- 600 ml of Tomato Passata
- 100 g (3,5 oz) of all purpose flour
- 300 g (10,6 oz) of grated Parmigiano cheese
- 300 g (10,6 0z) of Mozzarella cheese
- 500 ml of extra virgin olive oil
- some fresh basil leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic
- a handful of coarse salt
- fine salt and ground black pepper to taste
Step 1) – Wash the eggplants then dry them. Cut them into slices lengthwise to a thickness of about 5 mm (about half inch). Place them on a plate and sprinkle with a little coarse salt to make them lose their bitter water. Cover and let them loose their water for at least 30 minutes.
Step 2) – Meanwhile, prepare the tomato sauce. Put three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the Tomato Passata in a saucepan. Cook over low heat with the lid closed for about half an hour with a few basil leaves and two cloves of garlic. Add a pinch of fine salt and a little ground black pepper to taste.
Step 3) – Rinse the eggplants to remove the salt and dry them very well.
Step 4) – Now flour the slices one by one and then fry them in plenty of oil. Remove the eggplant slices when they are nicely browned and dry up excess oil on paper towels.
Step 5) – And now we can make Eggplant Parmigiana. Take a baking dish and place 3 or 4 tablespoons of tomato sauce on the bottom. Arrange the first layer of fried eggplants.
Step 6) – Place a few slices of mozzarella and sprinkle 2 or 3 tablespoons of Parmigiano cheese. Now repeat the layers until you finish all ingredients. So, first put a few tablespoons of tomato sauce
Step 7) – then another layer of eggplant and always cover with mozzarella and Parmigiano. Finish the last layer with tomato sauce and grated Parmigiano.
Step 8) – Preheat the oven to 180°C (350 F) and bake for about 30 minutes. In the last 3 minutes set the oven to grill mode and brown the top. Let cool eggplant Parmigiana for 10 minutes before serving. Add few fresh basil leaves on top for decoration.
Keep Eggplant Parmigiana in the refrigerator covered with cling film for 1-2 days. It can be frozen cooked, better if already separated into portions. Defrost in the refrigerator if necessary before heating.
Eggplant Parmigiana: Curiosities and Variations
In every Italian region this extraordinary dish is made with small differences in the ingredients.
For example, in Sicily they use Caciocavallo cheese instead of mozzarella.
In Campania they sometimes add a layer of hard-boiled eggs, as they do in the Neapolitan Lasagna recipe.
Another variant, especially near Parma: they add thin slices of ham.
A Light variant: Parmigiana with Grilled Eggplants
Traditional eggplant parmigiana recipe is made with fried eggplants. Anyway, it’s possible to make it in a lighter version. Light eggplant parmigiana in fact wants grilled eggplants.
You can even replace mozzarella with ricotta. Ricotta is certainly lighter and less caloric than mozzarella cheese. Ricotta will give your dish an equally good taste.
Individual Eggplant Parmigiana
If you prefer, you can make eggplant parmigiana for just one person. In this case you might need a single-portion baking dish to put in the oven and bring directly to the table.
So you need to cut the eggplants round, in the direction of the width, and alternate fried eggplants, slices of mozzarella, tomato sauce and parmigiano, forming a sort of tower, based on the depth of the container.
This way of presenting the dish is more elegant and original. Perfect for dinners with friends, you can easily freeze them still raw and defrost as needed before baking. Eggplant Parmigiana, in this single portions, can be served even as a second course or as a tasty appetizer.
Eggplant Parmigiana: Origins
The origin of eggplant parmigiana recipe is the subject of historical disputes between Campania, Sicily and Emilia-Romagna.
Eggplants are a widely used vegetable in southern Italian cuisine especially in Sicily: the famous Eggplant Caponata is the queen of eggplant-based recipes in Italy.
Many think of the Neapolitan origin for the use of mozzarella cheese. All these clues suggest that eggplant parmigiana was born in southern Italy.
But Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, abundantly used in the recipe, and the name “Parmigiana”, suggest its origins in Emilia and in particular in city of Parma.
Others think that the name “Parmigiana” does not come from Parmigiano cheese, but from the Sicilian word “parmiciana”, which in Sicily refers to window shutters. The set of stacked wooden strips that form the shutters remember the arrangement of the eggplants in the recipe for eggplant parmigiana.
The lack of indisputable historical sources on the origin of the eggplant parmigiana recipe leaves open the competition between Sicily, Naples and Parma on the authorship of this dish!