Monday, June 14, 2010

Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan)

Time for a confession: sometimes, I hate eggplant. After one too many servings of very bad, completely awful versions of melanzane alla Parmigiana, you know the kind with layers of fried greasy eggplant, too little sauce, rubbery mozzarella (I am cringing as I write this), I concluded that eggplant was a lesser vegetable. How wrong I was!

Eggplant is a very sensitive vegetable. Given its spongy nature, it will soak up whatever you give it, and if you are giving it less than impressive ingredients to soak up, it is not the eggplant's fault if it is less than glorious. But, if you combine it with lovely ingredients... you are in for one delicious dish.

Like this melanzane alla parmigiana. Between layers of rustic tomato sauce, real honest to goodness Parmesan cheese, and roasted golden eggplant, what is there not to like?

And it was so startling easy to make. I think I have a new, easy go to dinner that is still a little bit impressive.

Start by getting three firm globe eggplants. And you don't have to worry about salting them, because you are going to be roasting them and evaporating the bitter water anyways.
Cut them into 1/2 inch slices.
Spread them on a baking sheet and toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for about 40 minutes at 450, turning once.
(How good do these look?!)

Once they are done, get out a smallish baking dish, and get ready to layer. Start with a layer of tomato sauce.
Now, a good sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Then, a layer of roasted eggplant. Don't be afraid to 'coax' them into fitting.
And, repeat! You should be able to get in 2-3 more layers of eggplant. For the top, toss some bread crumbs with a little mozzarella, and sprinkle that over the top. If you add a few dots of butter to that, you will have a gorgeous golden top.
Bake for 30 minutes at 375, until everything is oozy, bubbly, and smelling like heaven.
Let it rest for a few minutes. When serving, add a good handful of basil, and, get ready to enjoy a perfect way to enjoy eggplant.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana
3 globe eggplants
olive oil
salt, fresh ground black pepper
One jar of good tomato sauce
3/4 cup or so of good Parmesan
1/4 (or more) cup mozzarella
3/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon of butter

Preheat oven to 450. Slice eggplants into 1/2 inch slices. Divide the eggplants between two baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast for 20 minutes, flip, and roast for 20 more minutes. Reduce oven to 375.

Get out a small baking dish (like an 8 1/2 inch gratin). Add a thin layer of tomato sauce, a good sprinkle of Parmesan, and one layer of eggplant. Repeat, creating 2-3 more layers of eggplant. You should end with a little sauce and a good handful of Parmesan. For the very top layer, toss the bread crumbs with the mozzarella, and sprinkle over the top. Dot with butter.

Bake for 30 or so minutes, until golden and bubbling. Let rest for 10 minutes. Serve with a good sprinkle of basil.

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