Eggplant parmigiana is eggplants, tomato sauce, mozzarella and ricotta cheese baked together for a cheesy delicious main dish.
Since living in Palermo, Sicily I have been blessed with a produce vendor who comes right to my door. Well practically right to my door. Our casa is part of a few homes and apartments that open into a small courtyard. The produce vendor drives his small truck into the courtyard all while announcing over a loud speaker he has fruit and vegetables for sale.
For the first week or two I did not look at the window and actually thought it was a person coming to give someone a ride to work or school and they were yelling “I am here” or “I am ready”. It was always close to 9 am. But finally one day when we were leaving home he came driving in and we realized we can purchase fresh produce right outside our front door. His truck is loaded with boxes of peaches, pears, bananas, onions, potatoes, grapes, lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, nectarines, cherries, and/or eggplants. It really depends on what is in season. But so far there is always eggplants. Always.
There are round eggplants – which I used in this eggplant parmigiana recipe. Or oblong eggplants which is more commonly found in the United States, thus the name eggplant because of their shape. You can use either but if you find the round eggplants, they are perfect for eggplant parmigiana. You will just slice the round eggplant into 1 centimeter thick pieces. But if you can only find the oblong eggplant you could choose to slice long ways instead of across. You can choose what you think will work best.
The secret is the layers. That is why it is called eggplant parmigiana because it is a layered dish. Parmigiana derives from the word “parmiciana” or “palmigiana” which are old Sicilian dialect referring to the overlapping strips of wood in shutters. Eggplant parmigiana took this name because of the overlapping layers of eggplant.
And layers of yummy, cheesy, saucy goodness is what you have – fried eggplant, fresh tomato sauce and spices, two cheeses, and fresh basil all baked together into a most delicious Sicilian dish. Enjoy it freshly baked or the next day when the flavors even blend together more. It is wonderful.
- 1 large round eggplant
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 3 fresh tomatoes – diced
- 6 oz mozzarella cheese – grated
- 1 garlic clove – minced
- ½ small onion – diced
- 8 oz ricotta cheese
- 3 to 4 sprigs fresh basil
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 -3 TBS bread crumbs
- 1 egg
- 2 TBS milk
- 5 TBS olive oil or as much as needed
- Cut the eggplant into 1 cm thick slices. Brush both sides with olive oil and fry them in about 2 to 3 TBS oil, add more as needed.
- In a large frying pan warm 1 to 2 TBS olive oil. Saute the garlic and onions until translucent and soft.
- Add the diced fresh tomatoes and spices. Cook until tomatoes are softened and start to break down.
- Add the tomato sauce and simmer an additional 20 minutes until your sauce is thickened.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Assemble the eggplant parmigiana in a medium loaf tin, spreading 2 to 3 TBS of sauce on the bottom of the tin.
- To assemble the parmigiana, alternate layers of eggplant, sauce, mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, and 2 to 3 fresh basil leaves.
- Continue until all the eggplant, sauce, and cheese is used, for 3 to 4 layers.
- In a small bowl, beat the egg with the milk and add the breadcrumbs.
- Slowly pour the egg/milk/breadcrumb combo as the last layer over the eggplant parmigiana.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
- Serve adorned with fresh basil leaves.