The key here is to make sure the eggplant is well-cooked and therefore slippery and succulent… combined with melted cheese, tomato and basil, well – that’s a marriage made in heaven!
Fresh from the garden: eggplant, basil, onion, garlic, thyme, carrot
Recipe source: adapted from a recipe by Mario Batali in Molto Mario
Serves: 6 or 24 tastes
Basic tomato sauce
What to do:
- Preheat the oven to 230C. Using a pastry brush, oil a baking sheet.
- Wipe the eggplant and then carefully cut each into slices about ½ cm thick – you may need the mandoline for this, set to the thickest setting. Lightly season each disc with salt and pepper and place on the oiled sheet. Bake the eggplant for about 10 minutes until the slices begin turning deep brown on top.
Then make the tomato sauce:
- Peel the onion and finely chop. Peel the garlic and finely slice. Wash and wipe the thyme dry, and then strip off the leaves to yield 3 tablespoons. Wash, peel and grate the carrot.
- Then: Heat the olive oil in the frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer until thick. Season with salt to taste.
- While the eggplant is baking and the sauce is simmering, you can organise the rest of the dish: pick the basil leaves, wash them well and spin them totally dry. Rolling up a few leaves at a time into a roll, slice them into very fine ribbons (chiffonade).
- Drain the bocconcini and carefully cut the balls into thin slices.
- Measure the parmesan and grate it. Weigh the breadcrumbs and have ready.
To complete the dish:
- When the eggplant slices are done, slide them out of the oven and lower the oven temperature to 180C.
- We are going to layer the different ingredients into each of the four small baking dishes – to start, sprinkle half a teaspoon or so of olive oil into each dish and then carefully place the largest eggplant slices on top of the oil.
- Over each slice, spread a spoon or two of tomato sauce over the top and sprinkle with a teaspoon of basil. Place one layer of mozzarella over each and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon grated parmesan. Place the smaller slices of eggplant over each of the discs and repeat with tomato sauce, basil, and the 2 cheeses. Repeat the layering again until all the ingredients are used.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top of the eggplant dish, and bake uncovered until the cheese melts and the tops turn light brown, about 15/20 minutes.
- Using pot holders, carefully place on serving plates and serve immediately.
Notes: This dish’s original name is melanzane alla Parmigiana – what does it mean and which language is it from? What other foreign language dishes can you name?