The aubergine in this rich and wonderful dish takes on a melt-in-the-mouth texture that even people who don’t like aubergine say is fantastic. You can leave the cheese out if you want a vegan dish, but if you do then make sure you reduce the sauce really well to maximise the flavours.
Aubergine parmiggiano is traditionally made using parmesan cheese (Parmiggiano Reggiano), but I normally use mozzarella for its excellent stringy quality and its lack of saltiness.
If the aubergines are old and seedy you may need to remove the bitter juices by salting on both sides and leaving for half an hour before rinsing, but with most aubergines these days you don’t need to do this.
For the healthy option, grill the aubergine slices until slightly charred. If you don’t care so much about the sponge-like aubergine soaking up the fat, then coat in beaten egg and flour and fry in olive oil until brown. Delicious though this is, I recommend the grilling option for all but the most special occasions.
For a real feast, double the quantity of mozzarella and parmesan and insert layers of cheese with the layers of sauce and aubergines.
2 large aubergines
8 sun-dried tomatoes
1 pint strong stock
1 can chopped tomatoes
¼ bottle red wine
2 tbs olive oil
350g grated mozzarella cheese
100g freshly grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil, rosemary, oregano
Salt & black pepper
Optionally, 1 egg, flour, & oil for frying aubergines
Slice the aubergines into slices of 1 to 1½cm thick. Grill or egg, flour and fry the aubergines.
In the meantime, fry the onion until soft, then add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes and the finely-chopped herbs. Fry for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes, and once it’s boiling again, add the stock and wine. Boil for as long as it takes to reduce the sauce by half its volume, then season to taste with salt & pepper.
Now assemble the dish in layers in a casserole. Add a layer of sauce in the bottom, then a layer of aubergines, then alternate layers until the top when you should finish with a layer of sauce and the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses.
Cover the casserole and bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at gas mark 5 for an hour until the cheese is browned and bubbly. If it isn’t, remove the lid and bake for a further few minutes. Serve hot with warmed focaccia, ciabatta or garlic bread.