Parmigiana di Melanzane (Aubergine Parmigiana)

Most parmigiana recipes are cooked in the oven.  Another way to cook it is in a saucepan, on the stove. I have yet to try this recipe cooked in the oven because maneuvering the parmigiana in & out of a saucepan requires dexterity and a cool head. To give you an idea, you have to slip it out of the pan directly to a big round plate (a pizza plate is the best size), invert it and cook the other side by slipping it back to the saucepan undamaged.  Needless to say, I always manage to damage it, however careful I am.  Now, how many times have I cursed and reprimanded myself for forgetting to cook it in the oven again and again?

This recipe came from my mother-in-law who is originally from Sicily. Checking other recipes, I didn't find a single one that uses potatoes in addition to the aubergines.  Nor this one doesn't call for caciocavallo cheese which is practically present in all of the parmigiana recipes. Now, I love parmigiana and I always try them everywhere but this one is still the best that I have tried. And I am not saying that just because it's a hand-me-down family recipe.

9 September 2012.  I am revisiting old blog posts, mainly to change some pictures that are short of being horrible.  I cannot bear looking at them!   I didn't know anything about food photography when I started this blog in 2011 and what you see now in my posts have evolved through observing, practice and most of all, encountering mistakes that I have learned to correct.  The same thing goes with my cooking and writing. 

Since I now have a good cast iron skillet, I decided to cook this parmigiana in a better way.  I cooked it half on the stove and the other half in the oven.  Since I used to invert the parmigiana on a plate then back again to the saucepan to cook the other side and I always encounter disasters, I simply used a cast iron this time and cooked the top part of the parmigiana in the oven.  I wish I thought of that a long time ago!  The result today was remarkably easy and disaster-free.  So take out your cast iron skillets and let's do this delicious parmigiana!

Parmigiana di Melanzane (Aubergine Parmigiana)

Serves 4
  • 2 big & oval aubergines 
  • 4 big potatoes
  • a bunch of fresh basil leaves
  • 1 (425 gram-can) tomato sauce
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • dried oregano
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • breadcrumbs
  • pecorino cheese, grated
  • parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
Preparation of the tomato sauce:
Saute' onions in a pan.  Add tomato sauce, adding about 1/2 cup water to swirl in the can or bottle.  Let boil.  When it boils, cover & simmer for 1/2 hour.  Add salt, pepper & dried oregano (or fresh basil).  Sauce should come out not too thick nor too liquid.  If it's too thick, add a little bit of water.  The secret to a tasty and good parmigiana lies on the tomato sauce so use a good one and cook longer than 1/2 hour if you can to make it tastier. 

Preparation of the potatoes:
Peel potatoes.  Slice them lengthwise, as thin as you can.  Use a mandoline.  Prepare a stove top griddle or a normal saucepan (not the one you will cook the parmigiana in) by pouring a little amount of extra virgin olive oil & spreading it thinly with a kitchen paper towel.   Put the potato slices one by one & brown both sides.  With the little amount of oil, you will be needing to add more time after time.  What I do is once I empty the pan, I pour some new oil again & spread it with a kitchen paper towel before putting the next batch.  Set the potatoes aside.

Preparation of the aubergines:
Peel the skin only on the parts where you will start & finish cutting.  The skin should only remain on the sides of the slices.  Slices should be about .5 cm. thick.  Cook the same way you cooked the potatoes.  Set aside.  

Preparation of the parmigiana:
For these ingredients, I used a 26 cm. cast iron skillet (or non-stick saucepan).  Pour a little amount of oil.  Spread evenly with a kitchen paper towel.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.  Spread evenly by moving the saucepan around until you cover the sides.

 Layer the aubergine slices by covering the whole pan, including the sides.
Layer the potatoes next.
Cover with tomato sauce and distribute the basil.
Sprinkle with grated pecorino & parmigiano reggiano.

With the remaining ingredients, repeat the layering.  The last layer should be the aubergines or if you have a little of both potatoes & aubergines, which can happen at times, just mix them.  Cover.  On a very low fire, cook for about 15 minutes or until the parmigiana is already sliding when you try to move the skillet.   

If you are using a regular saucepan, use a plate slightly larger than the pan to invert the parmigiana.  Wipe saucepan clean with a paper towel.  Pour a little bit of new oil.  Spread with a paper towel.  Dust with breadcrumbs and distribute evenly by moving the pan around until you cover the sides too.  Now the tricky part.  You have to put back the parmigiana to the pan to cook the other side.  Simply said but hard to do.  Cook for another 15 minutes or until it starts to slide out of the pan. 

If you are using a cast iron skillet, sprinkle the top of the parmigiana with breadcrumbs and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Put the parmigiana in an pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes.  When done, invert the skillet on a plate that's larger.  Serve.