Melanzane

Serves 4-6

The weekend is a good time to cook some slow food. Perfect for this Melanzane Parmigiana which requires some preparation time.

I’ve put this on the blog before, but I’m bringing it back up to the top as a meat free dish which I’m promoting on my Instagram page this week – “7 days- 7 vegetarian recipes”.

This classic, hearty Italian dish is absolutely delicious and your family and friends will be coming back for more. The brinjal is filling and “meaty” in its own way, and the cheesy tomato sauce will satisfy everyone’s craving for good Italian food. Take time over it and savour the cooking as much as the flavours that will result!

Here’s what goes in

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • Olive oil for frying
  • 2 x 400g tins of good quality whole tomatoes
  • 4 large brinjals, sliced lengthways
  • Table salt
  • 3 tablespoons of white wine
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons of oregano
  • 1 cup of grated mozzarella cheese
  • Buffalo mozzarella, to shred over the top

How to do it

Prepare the tomato sauce by first frying the garlic and onion in a bit of olive oil in a heavy-based pot. Then adding the tomatoes, white wine, 1 teaspoon of the oregano, and the basil leaves. Leave this to simmer, lid on, for at least an hour. You want the sauce to thicken and reduce, intensifying the flavour.

In the meantime, slice your brinjals, lay them on a tray and sprinkle a little salt over each one. (You may have previously read the benefits of this, in my Moussaka recipe, about how this removes bitterness and firms up the flesh). After half an hour, you can rinse these well under cold running water, and set them aside on a tea towel to dry. Then fry the brinjals on a hot skillet, turning them over as you go. Once this is done, you’ll be ready to compile your Melanzane.

Turn your oven on to 180 °C and lightly grease a roasting dish – this is quite a small Melanzane so I use a square dish of around 20cm. Place a layer of brinjals in the dish, topped with an even layer of tomato sauce and a good sprinkling of parmesan and breadcrumbs.  Then sprinkle a pinch of oregano over all of this. Repeat the layering, starting with the brinjal again. When you are about halfway through (which is probably no more than 2 layers in), sprinkle the cup of grated mozzarella as a centre layer, and then continue the process. You should end with a breadcrumb and cheese layer.

Now shred the Buffalo Mozzarella over the top and bake this in the oven for approximately 40 minutes, or until your dish is crisp, golden and bubbling. It’s best to rest this dish for about 10 minutes before serving – otherwise it falls all over the place!

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