Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Eggplant Parmigiana

As a child, I was a painfully fussy eater, especially when it came to vegetables. Things like okra, karela (bitter gourd) and broccoli I don't eat to this day. Eggplants were on this list of no-nos too, till my mother introduced me to grilled eggplant slices in pita wraps. For whatever reason, that preparation helped me overcome my aubergine aversion. Now, eggplants are a regular feature in my kitchen, cooked in several different ways. My absolute favourite way to have eggplant, however, is alla parmigiana.

What it is, is simply layers of three key components: eggplant slices, tomato sauce and cheese, baked together. If you scour the Net, you'll find that there is no one definitive recipe; people put their own spin on the three basic ingredients, so you can confidently adapt this to your taste and the available ingredients, and be assured of success.

I'm starting off with the recipe for the tomato sauce. I make this basic sauce almost every week, to go over pasta, or even to dip pita bread or chapati in. I play around with the herb & spice combinations all the time, as the same flavours too often gets boring. So again, flavour it the way you like. I've used pepper and chilli here to give the dish some zing; leave it out entirely or up the quantities if you want real heat. This sauce can be made ahead of time and will keep in the fridge for a week.

Basic Tomato Sauce
2 x 400g cans chopped tomato (which I then roughly pureed)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, finely minced (works out to 2 tsp)
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano (or basil)
1/2 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
Salt, to taste
Olive oil, for cooking

1. Put a heavy-bottomed saucepan on low heat, pour about 3-4 tbsp olive oil and immediately add the minced garlic. I got this tip from Nigella: you want the garlic to heat gently along with the oil and release its flavours without it going brown and bitter.
2. Once the garlic starts sizzling lightly, add the pepper and chilli flakes.
3. Add the chopped onion and raise the heat to medium; saute till the onions are translucent.
4. Add the tomatoes, then the salt and oregano and stir.
5. Turn the heat back down to low and simmer covered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn't catch.
6. Turn off the heat, and let it cool uncovered. Check the seasoning, and add more if required.

Note: To make the sauce more nutritious, you can add chopped carrot and celery after adding the onions and saute till they're softened; then add the tomato. If you want a completely smooth sauce, puree the whole thing after it's cooked .... fussy kids wouldn't even realise they were eating carrot & celery!

Eggplant Parmigiana
2 eggplants
1 tsp chilli powder (optional)
The tomato sauce (described above)
100g grated parmesan (or cheddar; use more or less as per your preference) 
Olive oil, for cooking
Salt, to taste

1. Wash, dry and trim the stalk and base of the eggplants; then cut into 1 cm thick slices.
2. Mix the salt and chilli powder together and sprinkle over the eggplant slices.
3. Heat about 3-4 tbsp olive oil in a skillet, and when it's good and hot, start frying the eggplant slices on both sides till golden brown. Set aside on a plate.
4. Once all the slices have been fried, you can begin layering. In an oven-safe dish, start with a layer of tomato sauce, topped with eggplant slices and then a sprinkling of the cheese, followed by more sauce, eggplant and so on. You should end with the tomato sauce topped with a generous layer of cheese. With this quantity and the dish I used (a glass baking dish, roughly 6 1/2" x 10"), I got 3 layers.
5. Pop the dish into a preheated oven and bake at 190C for 30 minutes, till the cheese is golden.

Note: To cut down on calories, you can omit the cheese in the inner layers, reserving it only for the top.  

Eggplant Parmigiana can be served hot or cold, as a side to a meaty main, or as the main itself, with pasta or salad. 


  1. Nice post! Like you mentioned, there are a myriad recipes of eggplant parmiagna splashed all over the net. I usually make mine with the inclusion of some pasta like spaghetti, eggplant slices coated in breadcrumbs and herbs (baked) and a final bake after assembling everything together.
    Never tried making the sauce by myself...its always been store bought! Should give your recipe a shot! :)

    1. Thanks! And coating the eggplant in breadcrumbs? Haven't heard of that variation before, sounds interesting, will try that for sure next time. Do give the sauce a try, it's really easy.

  2. Anonymous7:06 PM

    Having the pleasure of tasting this dish made by you, I can vouch that it is a delightful and extraordinary way of making, what is otherwise considered, 'a very ordinary vegetable'.

    The photographs are amazing and so inviting.

    Keep it up!

    1. Thank you so much! Hope to be able to make this for you very soon :)