Parmigiana Bianca (White Eggplant Parmesan)

August 12, 2014

Every Tuesday, Italian expat Emiko Davies is taking us on a grand tour of Italy, showing us how to make classic, fiercely regional dishes at home. 

Today: A tomato-less version of southern Italy's famous Eggplant Parmigiana.

Shop the Story

Eggplant Parmigiana is perhaps one of Italy's best-known exports -- and rightfully so. It's a satisfying, hearty vegetable dish made of deep-fried or grilled slices of eggplant layered with mozzarella, a simple tomato sauce, basil, and of course the recipe's namesake: Parmesan cheese.

More: Here's everything you need to know about how to prep eggplant.

There is much debate over whether Parmigiana originates in Sicily or Campagna, although some believe its name could also indicate that the dish comes from the northern province of Parma, where Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano) is made. It's a much-loved dish that several southern Italian regions would be happy to claim as their own -- even if Pecorino cheese is more typical of these regions than Parmesan. In any case, eggplants grow beautifully in southern Italy and thus appear in a variety of traditional dishes, like this baked pasta with eggplant.

Parmigiana Bianca, or "White" Eggplant Parmesan, hails from Puglia, Italy's heel. The main difference between this recipe and its more famous counterpart is the lack of tomato sauce -- but there are as many variations on Parmigiana Bianca as there are households in Italy. Some cooks substitute the missing tomato sauce with bechamel, and some simply leave it out. In this version, a mixture of eggs and cheese enriches and holds the Parmigiana together, much like the southern French tianWhile fresh mozzarella cheese is the traditional and favorite cheese to use alongside Parmesan, you could replace it with provola or caciocavallo. In every adaptation, the result is a gentler, sweeter Parmigiana.

More: Are you a red sauce fiend? Make Marcella Hazan's Genius recipe.

In all of its variations, Eggplant Parmigiana is usually served as an antipasto -- cut into small pieces and presented alongside a delicious platter of salumi, olives, marinated vegetables, fresh cheeses, and lovely deep-fried things -- or, more traditionally, as a contorno, a side dish that might arrive between the first (pasta) and second (main) course. Incidentally, it also makes for great, portable picnic fare.

Parmigiana Bianca

Serves 4 to 6 as part of an antipasto

2 large eggplants
Olive oil for frying and greasing
4 tablespoons (60 grams) dried breadcrumbs
3 eggs
1/2 cup (125 milliliters) milk
7 ounces (200 grams) fresh mozzarella (about 1 large ball), provola, or caciocavallo cheese
3 ounces (80 grams) Parmesan or pecorino cheese

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Emiko Davies

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Alisha
  • An Italian in my kitchen
    An Italian in my kitchen
  • Alan Divack
    Alan Divack
  • ChefJune
  • Emiko
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.


Alisha July 8, 2016
This is one of my favorite recipes! Love it with extra Pecorino, sliced zucchini, and heirloom tomato layered in.
An I. August 13, 2014
This looks delicious, I love recipes without the tomatoes, this is a good one too, zucchini parmigiana
Author Comment
Emiko August 13, 2014
Yes, zucchini is great done this way too!
Alan D. August 12, 2014
check out this fusion-y version, with no tomatoes but white miso to intensify the flavor:
ChefJune August 12, 2014
Ohmygoodness! I'm going to love this.