SERVICES 6–8: · vegan option, gluten free, leftovers friendly, freezer friendly
This is one of my all-time favourite ways with eggplant. The beautiful flavours in this dish are created from simple ingredients, cooked low and slow. The parmigiana is perfect with a side of soft polenta, garlic bread, or pasta simply dressed with pesto or olive oil, garlic, and lots of salt and pepper.
5 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
250 g cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp finely chopped semi-dried tomatoes
40 g (¼ cup) pitted olives, roughly chopped
2 tsp dried basil
3 eggplants, cut into 1–2 cm slabs
2 × 400 g tins chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp water (reserved from rinsing out the tomato tins)
3 tbsp red wine
1 handful basil or parsley leaves, plus extra to garnish
200 g fresh mozzarella or bocconcini, sliced (omit for vegan)
25 g (¼ cup) grated parmesan, feta or goat’s cheese (omit for vegan)
60 g (1 cup) panko breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Line two baking trays with baking paper. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the onions to a saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat and slowly cook the onions for 10–15 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic, cherry tomatoes, semi-dried tomatoes, olives and dried basil, along with a generous pinch of salt. Increase the heat slightly and cook, stirring often, for another 10 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, lay the eggplant slices on the lined baking trays. Drizzle the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over them and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25–35 minutes, turning halfway, until the eggplant is soft to touch and lightly golden. (Alternatively, you can cook the eggplant using a benchtop grill or sandwich press. This requires working in smaller batches, but creates beautifully golden, melt-in-your-mouth eggplant.) Set the cooked eggplant aside until ready to assemble.
Once the tomatoes in the pan have broken down and the sauce is smelling amazing, add the tinned tomatoes, water and wine. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and allow the sauce to bubble away for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours, adding an extra 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) or so of water if it starts becoming too thick. Turn off the heat and add the basil, stirring it through.
Assemble the parmigiana by laying half the eggplant in a large baking dish. Pour half the sauce over the top and sprinkle over about one-third of the cheese. Layer the remaining eggplant slices on top, then the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then top with the remaining cheese. Finish by evenly scattering the breadcrumbs over the whole dish. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the parmigiana is golden and bubbling. Garnish with extra basil and serve.
Note: As the eggplant slices are the bulk of the dish, it is essential to season each slice generously with salt and pepper.
This recipe is shared with permission from The Shared Table by Clare Scrine, published by Smith Street Books. Photography © Savannah van der Niet.