Melanzane alla Parmigiana

     This lovely dish could be described as aubergine lasagne but is lighter and less complicated than the real McCoy. Recipes vary from cook to cook but it’s always precooked aubergine slices layered up with tomato, mozzarella and basil, the top lavishly covered with grated Parmesan that cooks to a moreish crisp. It’s a dish of contrasts; buttery soft aubergine, molten yet slightly chewy mozzarella, sweet-sour tomato with basil when it’s available. If, like me, you often have a stack of roasted aubergine slices in the fridge (you should; they’re so versatile/useful and mindless to prepare), melanzane alla parmigiana becomes an effortless, quick and easy dish. Aficionados will have expected to see griddled rather roasted but roasting rather than griddling takes the sting out of the preparation. The dish is less oily too. This is an imprecise recipe, so adapt up or down with more or less of any of the ingredients.

Serves 2

Prep: 20 min plus 20 min salting

Cook: 45 min

2 aubergine, approx 300g each

400g can chopped tomatoes

2 mozzarella

3 tbsp olive oil

few basil leaves, if possible

4 tbsp finely grated Parmesan

     Trim the aubergine and slice lengthways in 4 or 5 slices, approximately 1cm thick. Dissolve 1 tbsp salt in a bowl of water that can accommodate all the aubergine slices. Immerse the slices and use a pan lid or plate to keep the slices immersed. Leave for at least 20 minutes. Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Tip the chopped tomatoes into a sieve over a bowl. Thickly slice the mozzarella. When the 20 minutes is up, rinse, drain and pat dry the aubergine slices with kitchen paper/towel. Select 1 or 2 shallow, heavy-duty roasting tins. Pour about 4 tbsp olive oil into a ramekin or similar and use a pastry brush to smear one side of the aubergine with oil, nudging close, oil-side down on the roasting trays. Oil the exposed surface. Cook in the hot oven for 15 minutes then use a spatula or fish slice to ease and turn the slices. Return to the oven for a further 10 minutes or so until all the slices are buttery soft. If I am making the slices for the fridge (to use later), I make a stack, let it cool then cover the stack with clingfilm. Chose individual or a large gratin-style dish and make a base layer of aubergine. Top with tomatoes, basil if using and slices of mozzarella, ending with slices of mozzarella. Dredge heavily with Parmesan. Bake at 200C/gas mark 6 for about 15 minutes or until the top is crusty and golden, juices bubbling round the edge. Take care as you eat; the inner layers will be very hot.