My Mom’s Eggplant Parmigiana
This is a dish I really love. My mom has been making it for years and while it’s good in any season, it’s really best in Summer, because you can make a fresh tomato sauce with all the great tomatoes available at the market instead of using canned ones, as you would in the colder months. Earlier this week I got two crates filled with delicious produce, among which a bunch of lovely ripe tomatoes and some really nice and robust eggplants. Naturally, they screamed Eggplant Parm at me.
This recipe is pretty easy to make, it just requires a bit of time and a few pots and pans. Other than that, it’s a great dish for making ahead if you want to prep it in the morning, leave it in the fridge and bake it when you get home. It’s best when it’s shared with family and friends. And if you decide to make it and the evening is nearing in as you’re sitting down at the table, pour yourself a glass of wine too, it goes really great with this dish. A nice hearty red wine works best, but since I tend to switch from red to white in the Summer, a glass of Chardonnay suited me well.
2 Tblsp extra-virgin olive oil
One large garlic clove, finely chopped
One medium yellow onion, finely chopped
5-6 medium ripe tomatoes, washed and cubed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Two medium eggplants, washed and cut into 1cm/ rounds
3 free-range eggs
250ml/1 cup organic sunflower oil (or any other vegetable oil)
1 cup bread crumbs or panko
3 large mozzarella balls, sliced
200g/1 cup grated Parmesan
In a medium saucepan set over low heat, fry olive oil along with the chopped garlic clove. Add the onion and sweat for a couple of minutes, until it becomes translucent and almost golden; be careful not to burn it. Once it is ready, add the chopped tomatoes along with the juices and allow to simmer until tomatoes soften; break down tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon and allow to simmer for about 30-40 minutes until the sauce has thickened. While it’s cooking, avoid stirring too much, this sauce likes to be left alone. Once it’s ready, season with salt and pepper to taste.
While the sauce is cooking, prepare your eggplant breading and frying station. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet set over medium heat. Beat the eggs well and place in a shallow dish. Place a dish with bread crumbs next to it. Start dredging the eggplant rounds into the egg mixture, making sure they are coated on both sides, then into the bread crumbs, then pop in the skillet. Fry on each side for about 2-3 minutes, until golden. Once cooked, transfer to a dish lined with paper towels, to absorb the extra grease.
Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Spread about two tablespoons of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a large oven-proof dish. Place eggplant rounds, top with Mozzarella slices, half of the Parmesan, then spread half of the remaining tomato sauce on top and repeat process once more. Depending on the size of your dish, you might get two or three layers. I worked with a 30cm/10in. dish and ended up with two layers. Once it’s assembled, pop in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the Parmesan has browned and the whole thing is bubbling.
- To make the sauce with canned tomatoes or bottled tomato sauce, set a large saucepan over low heat, fry olive oil along with one chopped garlic clove. Add one medium chopped yellow onion and sweat for a couple of minutes, until it becomes translucent and almost golden; be careful not to burn it. Once it is ready, add 750g chopped tomatoes or tomato sauce along with 100ml water, 1 tsp salt and allow to simmer until tomatoes soften; break down tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon if using chopped ones and allow to simmer for about 40 minutes – 1 hour, until the sauce has thickened.
- Eggplant slices can be fried as they are, without dredging in egg and breadcrumbs, but make sure to transfer to a dish lined with paper towels, to absorb the extra grease after they’ve been fried.