Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmigiana)

August 24, 2015
5 Ratings
Photo by Emiko
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

This is a classic version of parmigiana di melanzane as they would make it in Sicily. It would be eaten as a side dish there, but it's just as satisfying as a main. If you want to make it a bit more substantial, you can add a beaten egg with the grated cheese for pouring over the very top of the parmigiana—it will bake to a delicious golden crust. Some even like to sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top, too. —Emiko

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds (1 kilogram) eggplant (about 2 large)
  • 1 pinch salt, plus as much as needed for salting eggplants
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 17 ounces (500 grams) bottled tomato passata (puréed tomatoes)
  • handful of basil leaves
  • 2 cups (500 milliliters) vegetable oil, for frying, such as canola, sunflower or peanut
  • 8 ounces (220 grams) semi-aged caciocavallo cheese, grated (or Parmesan), or as needed
  1. Peel the eggplants and slice them lengthways into 1/3 inch-thick slices. Layer them in a colander and sprinkle each layer generously with salt (don't worry, you will rinse it off later). Once all the slices are salted, place a plate on top and a weight (such as a tin of beans or tomatoes) and leave for 1 hour. During this time, the eggplant slices will weep a brownish, bitter liquid. (It's not so much for the flavor that you need to do this but because they will "drink up" less oil when fried if they are salted first.) Rinse them under cold water and carefully pat them dry with clean tea towels.
  2. While the eggplants are draining, you can prepare the tomato sauce. Simply sauté the finely chopped onion gently in the olive oil until soft but not colored. Add the tomato purée along with about 6 to 8 basil leaves and a good pinch of salt and let simmer for at least 25 minutes, or until the sauce is as thick as you like it. Set aside
  3. Pour the vegetable oil into a wide and deep saucepan, preferably something that will fit about 3 to 4 eggplant slices at a time. Heat over medium-high. Test to see if the oil is hot enough by carefully dropping in a cube of eggplant—it should sizzle immediately. Fry 3 to 4 slices at a time, giving a few minutes on each side, until they are evenly golden brown. Drain on paper towels and let cool.
  4. Assemble the parmigiana by first spooning some tomato sauce in a thin layer over the bottom of a rectangular or oval ceramic or glass baking tray (the kind that you can also present at the table and the sort that you might use for lasagna is ideal). Place a layer of eggplant, then spoon over a layer of tomato sauce, a few torn up basil leaves, and a handful of grated cheese. Continue eggplant, tomato sauce, basil, and cheese, ending with a more generous layer of cheese. Bake at 350° F (180° C) for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly with a golden brown crust has formed. It's best to let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes before cutting into it, and it's also delicious served tepid rather than piping hot.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Lorraine Fina Stevenski
    Lorraine Fina Stevenski
  • Idalu
  • cucina di mammina
    cucina di mammina
  • Emiko

6 Reviews

Lorraine F. July 30, 2017
I am not from Italy and have never been there. Wish some day! My family is from Italy and we cooked as a family almost every day. Grandpa was the best cook. Our eggplant Parmigiana was simply breaded and then fried. We used 4C breadcrumbs. I now use whole wheat homemade toasted crumbs plus panko. We used our homemade sauce to top each slice. Not raw canned or jarred tomatoes. We did not drown the eggplant in sauce but added just enough to cover the top of each eggplant piece. We topped with fresh basil and fresh sliced mozzarella cheese. The eggplant was baked just enough to melt the cheese; about 20 minutes. The eggplant shined through every time no matter what time of year. The trick is don't over sauce the eggplant so it will be sweet and the dish will be delish. Love leftovers the best.
Idalu November 27, 2015
I had high expectations from this recipe. I mean the accompanying article was enticing and the pictures look so good. However, the result was quite watery and the taste was s bit bland. Maybe s bit more leaves or spices/pepper would help.
Emiko November 27, 2015
It sounds very much like you didn't have great eggplants to start with (it makes all the difference). Eggplants are at their best in the height of summer (July/August), after this time they tend to be very watery, with lots of seeds. Salting them helps a bit but there's only so much to can do with eggplants that you are finding so out of season in late November!
Idalu November 27, 2015
Might be the reason. Thanks.
Elisabetta C. October 28, 2015
I love this dish, I use almost the same recipe, except for the fact that onion does not go well with eggplant (my taste) and that you do not need to make a tomato sauce before layering. Just use quality crashed tomatoes seasoned with Some chopped basil and oregano, a pinch of red pepper for a little spiciness, and they will cook and set in the oven. It gives a more fresh and light taste to the parmigiana. Never add extra olive oil to the tomatoes, you will have enough oil in the fish from frying the eggplant.
cucina D. August 31, 2015
Love this southern fried version! Thanks for the share, iits a must try soon for me. My famiglia is from Roma and they bake the eggplant first before assembling vs. frying. Check out my version here on Food52: