by Chef Max Mariola from Rome (and Facebook!)
Normally, we collect recipes in the restaurants, trattorie, wineries, agriturismi, and sometimes home kitchens of incredible Italian cooks. This year, as we all know, is a little different… This fabulous version of an American-adored classic—eggplant parmigiana—comes to us from @ChefMaxMariola who is based in Rome but enjoyable from anywhere on Facebook. So cheerful and enthusiastic about his cuisine, he has helped us keep the pep in our (cooking) step!
Enjoy Parmigiana di melanzane with us in Italy or try making it at home—perhaps after you watch Max make it (we tried his recipe without tuna, just to enjoy the traditional version of this famous Italian dish).
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 2 red onions
- 4 medium-sized eggplants (Italian eggplants, if possible)
- Caciocavallo (cheese) or Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating
- 500 grams Fior di latte (fresh mozzarella)
- 400 grams of canned whole tomatoes (we like San Marzano)
- 3 Tbsp EVOO
- 3/4 cup seed oil for frying (we used refined expeller pressed canola)
- Flour, enough to lightly coat your eggplant slices
- Coarse salt
- Fresh basil—a whole “bouquet” (leaves and stems) if you can
- Slice your eggplants into discs, half an inch or so in thickness
- Lay the discs in a colander, salting each one a bit on top before adding the next layer
- Place weights (dishes, plates, books, whatever works!) over your completed stack (the combination of salt and weight will work to “ring” the water out of the eggplant) and leave to press for a half-hour at least
- Cut your red onion into short, thin slices and put them in a pan with enough EVOO to coat the bottom well. Add one clove of garlic, and (if you have them) the stems of your basil “bouquet”. The stems release a wonderful perfume into the onions, garlic and oil. Cook slowly over low-medium heat
- Once the onions have softened, but still have room to cook, remove the basil stems and garlic and add the tomatoes. Add salt and pepper, mix well, and cook over medium heat. Your sauce is ready when it has decidedly thickened, but still retains some of its liquid
- Slice your fresh mozzarella into discs of about a quarter-inch thickness
- Remove each of your pressed eggplant slices, knocking off any excess salt
- Turn each slice in flour, knocking any excess clumps off—your aim is a light dusting
- Put your seed oil over high heat. You can test its readiness by dropping a pinch of flour into the oil—it is amalgamates, the oil is hot enough
- Cook the eggplant—moving and flipping the slices regularly—until they are softened and lightly browned on the edges. When removing each one, be sure to allow excess oil to run off before you transfer them to a plate or tray covered in a paper towel.
- Start your over dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of fried eggplant slices, then a layer of mozzarella. Repeat a layer of tomato sauce. Add a layer of fresh basil leaves. Add another layer of eggplant. Add a final layer of tomato sauce. Then grate Caciocavallo or Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top
- Place in a 400F oven for 10 minutes—to melt the mozzarella and combine the elements.
As with everything, the better quality the ingredients, the more exceptional your dish will be. Buon appetito!