Melanzane. Ah, I love this word. Say it with me: Melanzane.
It means aubergine in Italian and hearing them say melts my insides. As does this recipe. It is so warming, and comforting and packed full of cheese. Amazing winter warmer. And one of the vegetarian options on my Delicious Dinners list. Its super filling and has no carbs except the breadcrumbs on top which are kind-of optional. The sauce needs long slow cooking so this one takes a little time but it is soooo worth it. Even the Italians loved this when I cooked it for them last summer, they couldn’t believe an English cook had made it…
Melanzane alla Parmigiana
Large aubergine, 2 balls mozzarella, 2 tins whole, peeled plum tomatoes, olive oil (loads), garlic, onion, glass of red wine, oregano (fresh if possible), handful fresh basil leaves, breadcrumbs, Parmesan
First off we’ll start the sauce. In a large pan heat a large glug of olive oil then add the finely chopped garlic and onion, sweat until soft and sweet with a pinch of salt. Add the wine and simmer gently until reduced by about half. Open the cans of tomatoes and, with your fingers, squish the whole tomatoes into the pan. Retain the sauce in the cans. Chuck in a handful of fresh oregano or a heaped tablespoon of the dried stuff. Add another big glug of excellent olive oil and simmer gently for as long as you can – over an hour is good, adding a little of the tomato sauce from the tins if things get a bit dry but you’re going for a nice thick sauce.
Slice the aubergines thinly into rounds. For a slightly healthier option, you could griddle all the slices, for a totally unhealthy option fry them all in oil. Or do a bit of both for a middling option as frying them makes them so soft a scrummy that to not have any in there would be a shame (this is packed with cheese so its never going to be a healthy dinner anyway…).
In a deep, square/rectangular oven dish layer the sauce, cheese and aubergine slices in the following order: sauce, aubergine, sauce, mozzarella slices (seasoning), grated parmesan, aubergine, sauce, mozzarella slices, grated parmesan mixed with breadcrumbs to top.
Put into the oven at 180 C for 30 minutes, then turn the oven up to 200 C for 10 minutes if the top hasn’t browned nicely. Top with torn basil leaves before serving. Eat with lots of crusty bread and a large glass of Italian red wine. Possibly a leafy green salad too, depending on how bad you feel about consuming that much cheese…