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Melanzane alla Parmigiana aka Eggplant Parmesan

Recipe taken from here

Parmigiana or eggplant parmigiana (Italian: melanzane alla parmigiana or parmigiana di melanzane) is a Southern Italian dish made with shallow fried eggplant (aubergine) slices layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked.

In addition to the many Italian versions, variations of Parmigiana have been developed across the world, most often in countries where large numbers of Italians immigrated. Examples of dishes developed outside of Italy from the original Parmigiana include veal (Veal Parmigiana) or chicken breast (Chicken Parmigiana) dipped in a mixture of beaten eggs, breaded, shallow-fried and topped with a marinara sauce (red Sicilian tomato sauce) and mozzarella. It is then usually baked until the cheese is bubbly and brown.

In the United States and Canada, veal parmigiana or chicken parmigiana is commonly served with a side of or on top of pasta. It is also popular as a submarine sandwich. Diced onions or green bell peppers, sautéed or raw, are sometimes added.

Chicken or veal parmigiana has become very popular in Australia as a pub dish, often served with chips and salad. It may also contain a wide variety of topping, including sliced ham or fried eggplant slices. A variation on the dish, popular in home cooking but rare in public eateries, includes sliced tomato instead of the sauce. This dish is often referred to as a parma or parmi, a simple shortening of the name. The two nicknames for this dish can be the subject of some debate amongst Australians of different regions.
Growing up, my Nonna (my Italian grandmother) used to make as melanzane often. Having this meal reminds me of my childhood. Having meals in my Nonna's dining room was rare, we used to only eat in there for special occasions such as Easter or Christmas. When I think of this meal, this is one of those occasions where we got to sit in her dining room. Due to the rarity of that, I really do treasure this meal because it reminds me of her.

I have had my share of melanzane but it seems now that my Nonna has passed I see it far less often. My mom makes it from time to time but it's one of those meals that just doesn't happen very often.

As I was at the grocery store yesterday, I came across this beautiful purple eggplant and I knew I had to make eggplant parmigiana. Am I ever glad I decided to buy that eggplant because let me tell you, this is THE best eggplant parmigiana I have ever had.

When I came home and unloaded all the groceries I then browsed my usual blogs in search of the PERFECT recipe. I did, I found a few, and there were two that really stuck out the most because they were baked and not fried. At first I was a little skeptical because the traditional melanzane is battered then fried in oil, but I just... I can't eat fried food, it really freaks me out, I mean I eat it on occasion but if theres a baked version of something I much rather risk it and try it. This was nothing to be afraid of. It was so so so delicious. I can't even tell you. This is the perfect dish for this time of year too. It's warm, comforting and just makes you so at ease. I've never had melanzane with Panko either, always the traditional Italian bread crumbs, but the crunch factor that's added from the Panko is beyond perfect. Homemade tomato sauce + Panko + baked eggplant = one beyond amazing dish.

This recipe is probably one of my favourite dishes I've ever prepared, and will no doubt be seeing this again very very soon. It took barely any time at all too since the frying step wasn't there. Oh, you must make this for your family! Now onto this fabulous recipe!

Ingredients:

For The Eggplant:

  • 2 Medium Eggplants, or 4 Small
  • 6 Tablespoons Coarse Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

To Assemble:

  • 1 Ball Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (Not Buffalo) (About 6 to 8 Ounces)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Seasoned Homemade Bread Crumbs
  • 3/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Directions:

Cut the eggplants lengthwise into 1/3 to 1/2 inch thick slices. Place a few slices in a colander and sprinkle with a little of the salt. Continue to slice the eggplants and place them in the colander with salt. Place a plate that just covers the eggplant on top, and then weight it down with a heavy can or canister. Let the eggplant drain in the sink for about 45 minutes. Rinse with cool water, and pat the eggplant dry.

While the eggplant is being purged of any bitterness, begin the sauce. To prepare the tomatoes, cut a slice off the core end. Squeeze the tomato gently over the sink to remove most of the seeds and juice. Do not worry if you do not remove them all. Chop the tomatoes into 1/2 inch dice. Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute or two. Next add the chopped tomatoes, salt pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook over low heat until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes. Add the chopped basil and mix well. Set Aside

Turn on the broiler in the oven on medium, and place the eggplant slices flat on a lightly greased baking sheet. Lightly brush the top of the eggplants with olive oil or use olive oil spray and then broil until lightly browned. Turn the eggplant, and brown the other side. Continue in this manner until all of the eggplant slices have been browned and are soft.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. F. In a large baking pan, first lightly grease the bottom. Place a layer of eggplant slices side by side without touching each other. Spoon a little sauce on each slice, and then cut the mozzarella cheese to fit each bottom slice. Choose another slice of equal size for each of the prepared eggplant slices in the pan, and cover each with this second slice.

Mix together the grated parmesan cheese with the olive oil and homemade bread crumbs. Sprinkle the crumbs over the eggplant slices. Cover the casserole with foil, and bake the eggplant for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the bread crumb and cheese topping has browned. Place each eggplant "package" onto individual plates and spoon some of the sauce on top. Serve warm.

Buon Appetito!

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