Parmigiana di melanzane

It’s almost impossible to eat a meal in Calabria without being offered parmigiana at some point. It’s a southern classic which, though takes a bit of effort to prepare, is worth every bite.  Similar to a Greek moussaka the Parmigiana uses the best ingredients of the region to make a dish which is satisfyingly tasty.  Here’s Mamma’s recipe:

Ingredients

4 decent sized aubergines (eggplants for you American readers!)

400ml tomato passata

1 medium onion

4 boiled eggs

200g ham

200g provola

100g grana padano (or parmigano)

2 big handfuls of breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Fresh basil leaves

Method

  • Slice the aubergines lengthways to about 1/2 cm thickness and (time permitting) put under salt to absorb the water.  This part isn’t crucial but will help with the general consistency.
  • In a large frying pan, fry the finely chopped onion until soft and lightly brown. Then pour in your passata, add a few basil leaves and season well with salt and pepper. Leave this to simmer on a low flame for approx 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, hard boil your eggs in a separate pan of water and leave to cool.
  • In another pan (yep you need to multitask) fry the slices of aubergine until well cooked and then drain on kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil. For a healthier version you can cook the aubergine in a griddle pan, brushing with oil beforehand.
  • In an ovenproof dish, sprinkle the bottom with breadcrumbs and grate some grana padano until it’s covered. This is an important stage to prevent a soggy bottom.
  • Add a decent layer of your tomato sauce, then cover with aubergine until the layer is covered.
  • Now comes the construction part.  Next add tomato sauce, chunks of provola, chunks of ham, slices of boiled egg and some fresh basil leaves and cover with another layer of aubergine.  Keep layering until you a) reach the top of your dish or b) run out of ingredients, whichever comes first!  Your top layer should just be tomato sauce covering the aubergine.
  • Generously grate with gusto the Grana pedano and add more breadcrumbs, this will give you a lovely crunchy and cheesy top when it’s done.
  • Heat in a pre-heated oven of 200°C for about 20 minutes to let everything melt and become yummy.  Take out and set aside for 10 minutes.
  • Eat with a big smile on your face.
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