Melanzane Parmigiana

This recipe is my go-to for a vegetarian meal. It really is enough on its own, but also makes a great accompaniment. You can vary the quantities to make this portion that should comfortably serve 6 or increase it to serve a crowd. With the weekend coming up, you might want to add these ingredients to your shopping list for some slow cooking. A good melanzane requires love and patience in the preparation – it’s not worth taking short cuts!

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, to taste
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese/Grana Padano, finely grated
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 teaspoons origanum
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
  • Buffalo mozzarella, to shred over the top

How to do it:

Using a heavy-based pot, prepare the tomato sauce first, by frying the garlic and onion in a bit of olive oil, until translucent. Add the tomatoes, white wine, 1 teaspoon of the origanum, 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 the brinjals (to about 5mm), lay them on a tray and sprinkle a little salt over each one. (This removes bitterness and firms up the flesh). After half an hour, you can rinse them under cold running water, and set them aside on a tea towel to dry. 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 – I use a square dish of about 20cm for this recipe. 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 this lightly and evenly with oregano. Repeat the layering, starting with the brinjal again. When you are about halfway through (which is probably no more than 2 layers in), add the cup of grated mozzarella as a centre layer, and then continue the process. End with a breadcrumb and parmesan layer.

Now shred the buffalo mozzarella over the top and bake this in the oven for approximately 40 minutes, (covered with foil at first), and then until your dish is crisp, golden and bubbling. It’s best to rest this dish for about 15 minutes before serving, otherwise it falls all over the place!

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