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Melanzane Parmigiana

Tuck into this hearty recipe for Italian baked aubergines and cheese

This recipe for cheesy aubergines and tomatoes always transports chef Theo Randall back to Italian holidays, eating dinner at the Osteria Bell’Italia in Puglia.

“Not a great name for an Italian restaurant,” Randall admits, “but believe me the food is amazing. They make the best parmigiana in Southern Italy.”

Now, you can replicate the experience from the comfort of your own kitchen…

Ingredients:

4tbsp olive oil, plus extra for oiling
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
8 basil leaves
600g tomato passata
4 aubergines, half peeled to give stripes (to help the aubergine cook evenly)
3 organic eggs, beaten
200g Tipo 00 flour (or plain flour will do)
100ml sunflower oil
200g mozzarella, chopped
100g Parmesan, finely grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

Place a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. When hot, add three tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic and fry for about 30 seconds, until the garlic is soft but has no colour. Add four of the basil leaves and cook for 30 seconds, then add the passata, reduce the heat and cook for about 15 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by half. Tear in the remaining basil and add the remaining olive oil. Season and set aside. Slice the aubergines into 1cm rounds. Transfer them to a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 20 minutes to draw out the liquid, then pat the slices dry with kitchen paper.

Have ready the beaten eggs in one bowl and the flour in another. Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Dip each aubergine slice into the egg to coat, then place in the flour, taking care to fully coat each slice. Shake off any excess flour then fry, in batches, for three minutes on each side until they are all cooked through and have a nice, golden colour. Place on kitchen paper to drain.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Lightly oil a baking dish with olive oil. Arrange a layer of cooked aubergines evenly in the bottom of the dish, spoon over one third of the tomato sauce, sprinkle over one third of the chopped mozzarella, and sprinkle over one third of the Parmesan. Repeat the layers twice more, finishing with the final layer of Parmesan. Bake the parmigiana for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden and crispy (give it up to another 10 minutes, if you need to).

Recipe from The Italian Deli Cookbook by Theo Randall. Available now at Amazon.

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