Aubergine Baked with Vegetarian Pecorino Cheese / Melanzane alla Parmigiana
I’ve never known whether this dish is called ‘parmigiana’ because it comes from Parma (in Emilio-Romagna, northern Italy), or because it’s made with Parmesan cheese. It is originally from Sicily, but it is cooked all over Italy and can be an excellent vegetarian main course. Antonio Carluccio
- INGREDIENTS: Serves 4 to 6
- 3 large aubergines,
- ground fine sea salt
- 600 g fresh vine ripened tomatoes, or 2 x 400 g cans chopped tomatoes
- virgin olive oil for cooking
- 1 medium-sized onion, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped into small pieces
- 1 stick celery, ends trimmed and chopped into small pieces
- handful of fresh basil leaves, half chopped half left whole
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- freshly ground black pepper
- a pinch of fresh chilli flakes
- plain flour for coating
- 150 g freshly grated vegetarian pecorino cheese
- 300 g vegetarian mozzarella cheese
- 3 large eggs, hard boiled, shelled and sliced
- Remove the aubergine stems and cut the aubergines lengthwise into slices about 1 cm thick. Sprinkle fine salt over a chopping board and place the slices onto the salt, gently pressing down. Sprinkle more salt over the slices and gently rub it in. Do this for each slice. Place the slices upright in a sieve or colander and leave to stand on a plate for about 30 minutes to draw off any bitter juices. Rinse under running water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Meanwhile, make the sauce. If using fresh tomatoes, skin and deseed them and chop them into small pieces.
- Heat 4 tbsp olive oil in a heavy saucepan, add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until beginning to soften. Stir often. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer, then add the carrot and celery and cook for about 8 minutes until softened. Stir frequently. Add the fresh chopped tomatoes, or the 2 cans of tomatoes if using, the chopped basil leaves, sugar and season with salt and pepper and add the chilli pepper flakes and mix thoroughly. Simmer over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring often.
- Transfer the flour into a wide flat-bottomed dish and spread it over the base. Heat a generous amount of olive oil, about 1 cm deep, in two frying pans. Coat both sides of the aubergine slices in flour and fry for 5 minutes, until golden. Turn the slices over and fry the other side for 5 minutes until golden. Transfer the slices onto a tray covered with paper towels to drain the excess olive oil. Top up the olive oil if needed.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F or Gas Mark 5).
- Drain and slice the mozzarella.
- Brush the inside of an ovenproof shallow dish with 1 tbsp olive oil.
- Line the bottom of the dish with a shallow layer of sauce followed by a single layer of aubergine slices. Sprinkle with freshly grated pecorino. Follow with a layer of diced mozzarella and slices of egg and top with a layer of tomato sauce. Continue to layer until all the ingredients are used up but ending with a sauce layer. Reserve 2 tbsp of the pecorino.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes until it is browned and bubbling. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the reserved pecorino, and bake for a further 5 to 10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and leave the dish to rest for 15 minutes before cutting up to serve. Serve warm or at room temperature. Drizzle over the top with a little olive oil and garnish with the remaining basil leaves.
The photo below shows the ingredients from the recipe. I added a few plum tomatoes I had in the fridge. If your wondering about the number of eggs, I know, but I did use 3, honest.