Today I am sharing with you one of my all-time favourite dishes – aubergine parmigiana. This Italian classic is a knock-out dish whether you are vegetarian or not, making it a great way to get more vegetables in your diet. For a dish that has such depth of flavour it is surprisingly easy to make.
I’ve made a few healthy tweaks to the recipe but without sacrificing the richness and flavour that I associate with the dish. First I have used a lot less parmesan than most recipes suggest. I reserve this for the top of the dish.
Most parmigiana recipes involve frying the aubergines in huge quantities of oil. This is because aubergines will soak up oil like a sponge. It is this oil which helps to give the dish such a rich taste. In my version I retain some of the oiliness but add this to the tomato sauce after cooking to boost the health benefits (by avoiding heating the oil at very high temperatures).
A lot of recipes also advise pre-salting the aubergine for at least an hour before cooking. My version doesn’t require salting but it does include capers. I’m pretty sure this is not authentic but caper berries add in some of the saltiness that I have skipped by not salting the aubergine itself. They are also little nutrient powerhouses, packed full of anti-oxidants and they taste GREAT.
Aubergine parmigiana, essentially is layers of aubergine, tomato sauce and cheese baked in the oven. Please do give my version a go but if you are in a hurry you can buy pre-griddled aubergines in the freezer section of some supermarkets (and occasionally vacuum packed in the dry aisles). You could use pre-prepped aubergine and your own ‘go-to’ tomato sauce to get a decent approximation.
This serves four as a main course with a hunk of garlic bread or a side salad or would stretch to six as a side dish. That said we often eat this entirely on it’s own shared between two as we tend to go back for seconds!
Preheat the oven to 200C. Griddle aubergine in batches until all slices are softened and charred. If the aubergine sticks to your griddle pan then you can oil the pan before griddling.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium pan over a medium-high heat and add the onion and garlic. Fry for a few minutes until soft and translucent. Add the wine (if using) and simmer until the liquid has evaporated. Add the tins of tomatoes and simmer gently for a further 30 minutes. If you are in a hurry you can reduce the time on this and finish when the aubergines are ready for layering. If you are reducing cooking time, taste your sauce and if it is a little bitter then add ½ tsp sugar.
Add in to the tomato sauce the capers, basil and pumpkin seed oil (and/or additional tbsp. olive oil). Season to taste.
In a medium sized baking dish (I use a 15 x 20cm dish but different dimensions will work, it will just impact on the depth of the bake) layer half of the aubergines. Cover with half of the tomato sauce, then half of the mozzarella. Repeat the process, adding the remaining aubergine, then the tomato sauce and finally the remaining mozzarella. Sprinkle the parmesan across the top of the dish. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes until the dish is heated through and the top browned and bubbling.
I'm Kim Adams, founder of SAVI Nutrition. A Registered Nutritional Therapist who is passionate about healthy, tasty food. Here I share with you my thoughts on food and health alongside a few of my favourite recipes.