Authentic Italian Eggplant Parmesan: Classic Comfort Food Recipe
While the origin of eggplant parmesan, or Parmigiana di Melanzane, is still a game of tug-of-war between the North and South regions of Italy, that doesn’t stop this dish from playing a big role across Italy and the world! It has been loved by Italy for decades after its first appearance around the 1400’s and became an international classic along the way. You won’t find a single Italian restaurant that doesn’t serve eggplant parmesan (and if you do, leave now!) and now you can make it at ease in the comfort of your own home!
- 6 cups of sliced eggplant (about 1 lb in weight)
- 6 cups of tomato sauce
- 1 lb of mozzarella
- 1 cup of shredded parmesan
- 2 tbsp of course salt
- 1/2 of a yellow onion
- 3-4 whole basil leaves
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- sunflower oil, for frying (peanut oil can be used as well)
- Start by washing the eggplants and removing the stalk at the top. Slice the eggplant lengthwise in slices, about 4-5 mm thick.
- Arrange the sliced eggplant in a colander or mesh strainer and sprinkle salt over each slice. Place a dish with some sort of weight on top of the eggplants – the salt and pressure will help to purge the extra water and make the frying process easier. Leave it like this for an hour.
- Rinse and pat the eggplant slices dry and set aside. Slice the mozzarella up into very small cubes (I suggest cutting them into thin strips first and then dicing). Set on top of a clean cloth or in a separate colander to let any excess brine drain and set aside as well.
- Heat up a large pan with olive oil. Dice up the onion and then add it to the pan once its ready. Make sure to stir frequently so the onions don’t burn but just brown slightly on the edges and become translucent – it should take a few minutes.
- Add the tomato sauce to the pan along with a spoon or two of water to thin it out. Season with salt and a little pepper and let this simmer for 40-45 minutes. Add the basil by tearing it into chunks towards the last ten minutes of simmer time.
- Start heating up the sunflower oil in a frying pan (you’ll want to use enough to cover the eggplants completely when they are set in. Add in as many eggplant slices as you can into the pan without overlapping them, let them fry on both sides, then remove and set them on a plate covered with a paper towel so it can absorb the extra oil. Continue cooking the other slices of eggplant until they are all fried.
- Time for the composition! First, lightly oil a large baking dish with oil and then add a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom. Form a single horizontal layer with the fried eggplant slices on top of the sauce until it covers the bottom, sprinkle some salt and pepper and some parmesan, then evenly distribute some of the mozzarella cubes.
- Add another layer of sauce on top until it gently covers the layer below. Add more eggplant slices on top of the sauce in a vertical layer this time and gently lay your hands on top and press down slightly so it compresses, then continue with the process. Keep layering like this until you reach the top of the baking dish, making sure to gently compress the layers in between. On the last layer, pour all of the remaining tomato sauce on top and distribute the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan evenly.
- Set it in the oven for about 40-45 minutes at 390°. Let it sit for 5 minutes before serving – enjoy!