My mother insists on a walnut topping for her eggplant parmigiana; a Sicilian touch. I differ from her in that I roast the eggplant in the oven rather than fry it on the stove, which makes for less fat and splash. This recipe is adapted from my book, I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti. In the book, I tell readers to toast the breadcrumbs and walnuts before baking the casserole. I have since learned that this extra step is not necessary. In the book I use canned tomatoes which is perfectly fine but I used fresh ones today. The plum tomatoes were sitting right next to the eggplants at the Park Slope farmer's market this morning, and I could not pass them by. —Giulia Melucci
Peel the tomatoes with a vegetable peeler, remove the stem ends, halve vertically and sccop out as many seeds as you can with a small spoon (or don't, I didn't bother with the seeds), puree in a food processor.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add garlic and red pepper flakes, heat until garlic is golden, about 5 minutes, then add the tomatoes, wine, sugar, salt and basil leaves. Cook until thickened, 20-25 minutes.
For the eggplant:
Preheat oven to 450° F. Slice the eggplant into rounds 1/2" thick, lay the eggplant onto a cooking sheet. Sprinkle salt and brush olive oil onto each side. Cook each side for 15 minutes turning once. Both sides should be nicely browned.
When both the sauce and the eggplant are ready prepare a pan that can accommodate the eggplant by brushing the bottom and sides with olive oil, then add a layer of sauce. Cover the sauce with one layer of eggplant then spoon some sauce over it, sprinkle one half of the mozzarella and one half of the pecorino, then add another layer of eggplant followed by the sauce and both cheeses. This recipe should only make two layers, if you come up with more, keep going until you are ready to add the topping.
Mix the breadcrumbs and walnuts in a small bowl with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Sprinkle the topping over the final layer of eggplant and bake until browned and bubbling, about 20-25 minutes. Allow the finished dish to rest for 10 -15 minutes before serving.