Melanzane parmagiana, (or aubergine parmigiana) is an Italian dish and so perfectly rich, warming and cheesy. It’s essentially a tomato, parmesan and aubergine bake, where traditionally, the aubergines are pan fried, sometimes breadcrumbed and baked in the oven to melt all over the cheese and tomato sauce. I prefer the less messy and healthier way of roasting the aubergines first while you get the sauce going but I have often charred the aubergines on a griddle pan which gives an extra smokey flavour and is equally delicious. The same recipe can be substituted for courgettes or a mix of Mediterranean veg, peppers, fennel for me, the classic aubergine always wins.
1 tsp dried oregano
2 onions, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 cans whole plum tomatoes
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
Salt and black pepper
100g Parmesan, finely grated
Handful of basil leaves
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 4. Remove the stalks from the aubergine and slice lengthways into 0.5cm slices. Arrange in one layer on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, the dried oregano and a good seasoning of salt.
2. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until softened and tender.
3. Meanwhile, heat a deep saucepan over a low-medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil and butter. Add the diced onions and sweat over a low heat until completely softened but have not taken on any colour, about 10 minutes.
4. Turn up the heat, add the garlic and tomato puree and fry for 2 minutes.
5. Add the canned tomatoes, vinegar and sugar, breaking up the tomatoes in the pan. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until reduced and thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
6. In a 20x20cm baking dish, spread a little tomato sauce over the base, arrange the aubergine slices to cover the bottom and scatter over some of the grated parmesan and slices of mozzarella. Add a few basil leaves to each layer. Spread over a layer of more sauce and repeat the layers with aubergine, sauce and cheese, reserving a good amount of sauce and cheese to cover the top.
7. Scatter the breadcrumbs with remaining parmesan over the top and bake in the oven for 45 minutes, checking until the top starts to crisp up and brown. Leave to stand for 10 minutes to set, before scattering the basil leaves to serve.