With eggplant in season, take advantage of the period and prepare this classic dish that is always a crowd pleaser: eggplant parmesan otherwise known as parmigiana di melanzane, or melanzane alla parmigiana or simply: parmigiana. You should look for melanzane that are firm with shiny, taut skin. The stem should be unwithered and green.
The origins of eggplant parmesan are uncertain, but the general thought is that it originated in Sicily or the Naples area. Others suggest it comes from Parma (the area where Parmigiano Reggiano is produced). The first written recipe for eggplant parmesean was published by Vincenzo Corrago, a chef to wealthy Neapolitan families in the 18th century.
As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, I like to cook easy recipes and this one is no exception, but I must admit, it IS time consuming. So put on your favorite Italian tunes and enjoy a relaxed afternoon preparing this super satisfying dish.
5 cups of marinara sauce (see recipe here)
3 medium eggplants, (about 2 ½ – 3 pounds)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 – 3 cups breadcrumbs
1 cup vegetable oil, (more if needed)
2 cups parmesean cheese grated
1 pound grated mozzarella cheese
1. Prepare tomato sauce (need this part) salt and pepper to taste.
2. While tomato sauce is cooking, cut the stems and ends from each eggplant. Peel eggplant in a striped design. (Sometimes eggplant skin can be tough, peeling in stripes alleviates this problem, at the same time, allows eggplant to maintain their shape.) Cut the eggplant in ½ inch round slices.
3. Place eggplant in colander and sprinkle with salt. Place colander in sink and allow to drain for about 45 minutes. (This step remove any bitterness from the eggplant). Rinse eggplant and dry.
4. In a wide and shallow bowl, whisk eggs. In another wide and shallow bowl, pour in breadcrumbs, add salt to bed crumbs and mix.
5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Dredge eggplant slices in eggs, then into breadcrumbs making sure to coat evenly.
7. Pour cooking oil into large skillet and heat over medium heat. Once oil is heated, add eggplant slices and cook until golden brown on both sides – about 7 minutes. Remove cooked eggplant to a plate lined with paper towel and repeat until all the eggplant has been cooked. Pay attention to the heat of the oil to make sure it does not get too hot, otherwise, you may burn your eggplant. Eggplant soaks up a lot of oil, be careful not to overcook otherwise you will get soggy eggplant. Also add more oil as necessary.
8. After all the eggplant has been cooked, assemble the ingredients in the baking dish as follows. Add enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom of a 9”x13” baking dish. Add a layer of eggplant, then a layer of tomato sauce, then sprinkle a layer of parmesan cheese, then add a layer of mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layering process twice (eggplant, sauce, parmesan, mozzarella).
9. Cover the baking dish with foil very loosely making sure not to touch the top layer of cheese and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has a golden brown color.
10. Let cool for 20 minutes, cut and serve.