I love Italian food. That may be pretty obvious to anyone who reads this blog regularly. I got it into my head to make some Aubergine Parmigiana – eggplant for anyone on the other side of the world! I do like the recipe in Anna Del Conte’s Gastronomy of Italy for Melanzane alla Parmigiana, but sometimes find it a bit heavy or greasy. So I decided to try making it as a roll up with some ricotta cheese to lighten it a bit. It’s not too dissimilar to the idea of Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni, just simpler and with aubergine instead of pasta. If you would like to try the proper Aubergine Parmigiana, there is a great guide here in Felicity Cloake’s Perfect column.
It’s usually recommended now not to bother salting the aubergine slices but I do it as really it takes no extra time and draws out quite a bit of water. That prevents the dish from getting too soggy! I cook the slices on a griddle pan as a little charring gives it a great flavour. You can use an ordinary frying pan or bake them in the oven if you prefer.
The recipe here makes enough for 4 people for a main meal. I made it in 2 separate dishes and froze one. It is also great to use for lunch the next day.
- 2 aubergines
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
For the tomato sauce:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- 200g of tomato passata
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp of dried oregano
For the filling:
- A handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
- 250g of ricotta
- 125g ball of mozzarella broken into small pieces
- ¼ tsp of freshly grated nutmeg
- the zest of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper
For the breadcrumb topping:
- 25g of grated paremsan (or vegetarian alternative)
- 30g breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Start by prepping the aubergines. Remove the tops and thinly slice them lengthways. You should get about 6 slices from each aubergine. Put them onto some kitchen paper and lightly salt them to draw out excess moisture.
- Next start making the tomato sauce. Use a heavy based saucepan and over a medium heat cook the onions in the oil until they have softened. This could take up to 20 minutes.
- Once softened, add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the tinned chopped tomatoes and the passata and increase the heat. When it is just about to boil, turn down the heat, add the vinegar and oregano and simmer for about 12 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. When it has thickened, taste to see if it needs more seasoning or even some sugar.
- Next cook the aubergine slices. Pat them dry with some kitchen paper. Heat a griddle pan or frying pan to a high heat. Brush a little olive oil on to the slices of aubergine and season with a little pepper. Cook them in batches for 2-3 minutes on each side in the griddle until soft and cooked through. Put them to one side and allow to cool.
- While the aubergine is cooling and the sauce reducing, preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4 and make the cheese filling. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well together. Season with the salt and pepper as needed.
- To assemble the dish, spoon two thirds of the tomato sauce into a baking dish that will hold the aubergine snugly. Put about a tablespoon of the ricotta filling and the base of a slice of aubergine and roll it up. Put the aubergines into the dish on top of the tomato sauce.
- When all the rolls are done spoon the remaining tomato sauce on top. Mix the breadcrumbs with the parmesan, oregano and some black pepper. You should not need any salt with the parmesan.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and put it into the oven for about 15 minutes until the breadcrumbs have turned a nice golden brown colour and the cheese is melting into the tomato sauce.
- Serve with a nice green salad or some spinach leaves like I have here and drizzle over a little balsamic syrup. You could also serve some nice crusty bread to mop up the sauce.