Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmesan)

v13n4_recipes_italianMany recipes call for frying the eggplant in oil. To cut back on fat, I bake them in the oven until they’re softened and the breading is crisp before layering them with sauce and cheese.

2–3 small eggplants, cut into 1/4–inch slices

3/4 cups flour

2 eggs

1-1/2 cups bread crumbs

Salt and pepper, to taste

Extra virgin olive oil

Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)

12 oz mozzarella cheese slices

Grate Parmigiana Reggiano, for garnish

1 lb spaghetti, cooked

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the sliced eggplant in a colander set in the sink. Sprinkle with salt and let the bitter juices drain from the eggplant, about 3 hours. Rinse well and pat dry.

Place the flour on a plate. Beat the eggs in a wide, shallow bowl. Place the bread crumbs in a plastic bag. Season with salt and pepper. Dredge the eggplant slices on both sides in flour, dip in egg and shake in plastic bag of bread crumbs to coat.

 Arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet that was coated with cooking spray. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake in oven about 30 minutes or until eggplant is cooked through and bread crumb coating is golden brown. Spread a spoonful of tomato sauce on each eggplant slice. Top with cheese. Bake another 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle with Parmigiana Reggiano. Serve with spaghetti and remaining tomato sauce.

Sugo al Pomodoro (Tomato Sauce)

This is a great all-purpose sauce that is simple but special when made with certified San Marzano tomatoes, grown near Naples in the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius. They cost a bit more, but they are worth it. You’ll find them on most grocery shelves with the canned tomatoes.

2 cans certified San Marzano tomatoes

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp sugar

Salt, to taste

1 onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

Purée the tomatoes in a food processor. In a Dutch oven, sauté the onion in olive oil. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Add the tomato purée, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with Eggplant Parmesan and spaghetti.

Gary: Eggplant can be bitter, which is why a red wine with acidity or with rich, dark flavors would make a good match to this dish. The choice would be dictated by your tastes, depending if you like the acidity of the red sauce enhanced by a higher-acid red wine, or mellowed by a rounder, darker version. Try the aforementioned Piedirosso for a lighter red, or for darker, riper wines a Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio or Nero d’Avola. For a richer, more structured red, the Taurasi made from Aglianco grapes is firm and complex. Cannonau (Grenache) is a softer red with black pepper overtones that would also be quite enjoyable.

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