Eggplant Parmigiana is a very tasty oven dish, consisting of eggplant, tomato sauce, and cheese. Using fresh tomatoes for the sauce (rather than from a can) takes it over the top. Eggplant, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil go very well together. This is a classic Italian dish that is clear evidence of how good simple Italian food can be. The main drawback of the classic preparation is that the eggplant is pan-fried with lots of oil, as the eggplant slices are like sponges. I’ve found a way around that: I roast the eggplant in the oven after only lightly brushing it with oil. Salting the eggplant slices helps to cook them. In this case I forgot to buy the mozzarella that I usually put on top, and made an even ‘ligther’ version. The parmigiano does not melt as nicely, but it still makes for a nice dish. It’s your choice whether you want to put mozzarella on top or not.
800 grams (1.8 lbs) fresh plum tomatoes
1 clove garlic
extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
mozzarella, preferably buffalo (optional)
Arrange the slices on kitchen paper in a single layer, and sprinkle with salt on both sides. Allow to stand for 30-60 minutes. The salt will draw out the juices and will make it easier to cook them. It is also said that the juices that are draw out are ‘bitter’, but I don’t think it’s necessary for that purpose (despite not being a fan of a bitter taste).
Prepare the fresh tomato sauce while the eggplant is being salted and roasted. There are different ways to make fresh tomato sauce from scratch. You can remove the skin and seeds and then dice them, but for a fresher taste that uses the juice around the seeds and for an easier preparation, you can also just puree whole tomatoes in the food processor. Just wash and dry them and put them in the food processor. You can also substitute with peeled tomatoes from a can if ripe tomatoes are not available, but use fresh ones if you can.
Fresh tomato sauce goes well with chianti classico, or other sangiovese-based Italian reds.