When it comes to naming the top Italian comfort foods, the first thing that springs into my mind – aside from lasagne – is the eggplant parmesan. Substituting the lasagne sheets with eggplant slices, you can’t go wrong creating this layered casserole if you are looking to host a dinner party for friends or family. One thing to keep in mind when selecting eggplants is to choose firm, smooth eggplants. Also, do bear in mind that eggplants absorb oil like a sponge. So if you’re not careful, you could end up with something very mushy and oily. Simply follow the below simple recipe to create a wonderful cheesy and tomato-ey eggplant parmesan bake that doesn’t weigh you down with too much water or oil.
INGREDIENTS (serves 2-3 as a side dish):
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes (400g tin)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 1 bunch basil leaves, torn
- 2 garlic cloves, diced
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil and more for brushing eggplant slices
- Salt and pepper, to taste
1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. 2) Heat a saucepan on medium heat. Add in diced garlic and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Gently cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the can of tomatoes and increase heat to bring to a simmer. Then lower heat to maintain a very low simmer for 15 minutes. Add in 1 tablespoon of tomato puree and season with salt and pepper, adjusting taste as desired. 3) In the meantime, as the tomato sauce is simmering, slice the eggplants into 5mm slices lengthwise to fit the casserole dish. Brush both sides of the eggplant with olive oil. 4) Heat a griddle pan on medium heat and layer the eggplant slices. Cook for approximately 5-6 minutes, flipping it over halfway until eggplant is cooked. 5) Now for the fun part! Layer eggplant slices into the casserole dish and spread the tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle some salt and pepper then layer the torn basil leaves and mozzarella and grated parmesan on top. Repeat the alternating process until all the eggplant is used up and you create some beautiful artistic layers. 6) Once the layering process has been completed, top with the remaining tomato sauce and the remaining cheese. Simply shove the oven proof dish into the oven and bake uncovered for ~20 minutes. Take out of the oven and decorate with the remaining basil leaves on the surface. Wait patiently for 10 minutes before cutting into to serve.