In this dish you will taste a little bit of Italy in every bite you take. It’s one of my all time favourite Italian oven dishes: Melanzane alla Parmigiana. I absolutely love Melanzane, and could eat it every week. It’s 100% vegetarian and I promise you: You don’t miss meat in this dish. No, even a real meat-obsessed man who can eat 300 gram steak on one night… Scroll down to read about where I tasted the best Melanzane ever and for the recipe.
I always grill the aubergine upfront…. and season them nicely with good quality olive oil, chili pepper, and some Italian herbs as oregano, marjoram or basil…
You know what is funny? The best Melanzane I ever had, wasn’t in Italy, but… In Johannesburg, South Africa. It really is true! It was about 2,5 years ago, in 2014, that me and the Mister were in Johannesburg during winter, it was freezing cold (honestly, like -2 during the night and 3 degrees during day) and we found this lovely restaurant on 4th Avenue, Parkhurst. On my birthday! The name of this Italian place was Bodega, I think. Their Melanzane was/is divine. But mine as well ;-), now. After some practising. And lucky you, today I will share the recipe with you!
Melanzane in the making… building layers
3 gloves of garlic
1 chilli pepper
190 ml olive oil (extra virgin)
800 gram peeled tomatoes (tinned – 400 gram per tin)
2 teaspoons of sugar
2-3 teaspoons Italian herbs (dried)
250 gram buffalo mozzarella, about 2 big or 3 small balls of mozzarella
100 gram Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons bread crumbs or Panko
15 gram basil, leaves only
2 teaspoons Ras el Hanout
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Italian herbs
Cut the aubergines either lengthwise or – if you prefer like me – into round slices of 0,5 cm thick. Sprinkle with salt and leave in a colander for about 20 minutes.
In the meanwhile you can make the tomato sauce.
Heat in a medium sauce pan some olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic in a few minutes soft. Add the tomatoes an stir in with a wooden spoon. Season the sauce with sugar, pepper, salt and some Italian herbs. Leave to simmer for about 15 minutes.
Rinse the salt off the aubergines and dry with kitchen paper. Heat a grill pan over high heat and grill all the aubergines on both sides until golden brown.. Make sure you smear a bit olive oil on each aubergine slice upfront. Will take about 2-3 minutes each side. When both sides are grilled, transfer to a plate with kitchen paper and season with chilli powder, cayenne pepper, Ras el Hanout, sea salt and (optional) Italian herbs.
Now you have the tomato sauce and the grilled aubergines, prepare the other ingredients for your Melanzane. Grate the Parmesan cheese, and keep 1/4 aside and mix with the bread crumbs, in a separate bowl. This is gonna be the last layer. Slice the buffalo mozzarella. Make sure you have enough for at least 2 layers, and maybe three. Clean the basil, take off the leaves and roughly chop.
Preheat the oven to 180 °C.
Now you start with building the Melanzane. Make sure your 20 x 30 (slightly bigger or smaller also fine) oven dish is basted with a thin layer of olive oil. Then start with a layer of grilled aubergine, tomato sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, then the sliced mozzarella and finish with basil leaves. Repeat this until all ingredients are finished. Finish with a layer of aubergine and the Parmesan mixed with breadcrumbs.
Bake for 30 – 40 minutes in the oven.
Allow to cool down slightly before serving. It’s nicer when it’s not boiling hot. Bon Appétit!
You can prepare this oven dish 1 day upfront and keep covered with cling film in the fridge.
You can eat Melanzane just as it is, but you can also serve bread, potato gnocchi or fresh pasta with it.
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