Melanzane alla parmigiana – Aubergine, tomato and parmesan bake

Melanzane alla parmigiana – Aubergine, tomato and parmesan bake

Melanzane alla parmigiana

This is such a sumptuous dish and a perfect vegetarian dish to serve to anyone who says they do not like vegetarian food. We first had it in a hotel in the Dolomites in Northern Italy. In winter, a mountain ski lodge, but this was the summer and despite being in the mountains the temperature had been in the very high 30’s during the day, and even now at nearly 8pm the temperature was still around 30C. We had ordered off the set menu and the first dish was called ‘Timballo di Melanzane alla Veneta’. Within my very limited Italian what it was going to be was unclear, and when served it might best be described as ‘unprepossessing’, but that first mouthful was an absolute revelation ……………….. and I have never been quite able to recreate it ………………… or at least that is how I remember  it!
Jackie tells me she thought it was ‘quite nice’ but that those we have made since have been so much better. I prefer my slightly more romantic notion which allows me to keep striving to create a dish that lives in my imagination!
As we ate we realised that there were layers of aubergine, tomatoes, and cheese. In my memory there was an unsurpassed savory richness, lifted by the sweet fresh, sun ripened tomatoes, enhanced with garlic and basil. The richness came from the combination of the cheese and tomatoes working together with what seemed like thin slices of roasted aubergine. Anyway, a little internet searching a couple of days later revealed far too many recipes for this magical indulgence – so I pieced together themes from different recipes that I thought we may be able to do on the EGG – we were travelling in Europe and the Mini BGE we had with us was going to limit the size we were going to be able to try for our first interpretation of ‘Melanzane alla parmigiana’. This recipe records our first attempt, it was not perfect, or that pretty – but by candle light that did not matter – and the taste was very good …………… but not quite there yet.
We found some lovely fresh aubergines and a couple of handfuls of tiny baby tomatoes (though from experience I would now really recommend using tinned tomatoes for this in general). There are all sorts of suggestions for preparing the aubergines, sautéing in olive oil where they do really work as an olive oil sponge, oiled and then grilled, oiled then baked, and one healthy option where they were blanched in boiling water! As we had the EGG and a small, 4.5 inch, cast iron frying pan, for this first attempt we planned a combination of fried and grilled.
The aubergines were first cut lengthways into 5mm slices, sprinkled with salt and left in a colander to drain for half an hour. This was done traditionally to remove the bitterness from the aubergine which I believe has now been bred out of them – it does however season them well for the next stage and dehydrates them a little which seems to help the grilling.

Meanwhile a little olive oil was heated in the 8 inch BGE drip pan which we had with us – really too large for the Mini BGE it was all we had that was large enough to make the dish and allow closure of the lid – just! The chopped shallots were added to the pan and softened, then the sliced garlic cloves were added and cooked a little before the tomatoes were added the halved baby tomatoes first to lightly fry off then the tinned tomatoes and red wine.

This was then all allowed to simmer until the volume was reduced by about a third. The tomatoes were mashed  until reasonably smooth, seasoned and had a little basil and sugar added then left to simmer for a further 10 mins.

Now the EGG was again free, the aubergines were washed, dried, brushed with oil and grilled or fried on the BGE with the lid closed being careful not to burn the aubergine.  They are easy to burn if you have been too sparing with the oil. These were set aside on a paper towel in a vain attempt to convince myself we were removing the excess oil!

The tomato sauce was decanted into a bowl to allow access to our one pan. This was washed and then lightly greased and spread with a thin layer of tomato sauce, followed by a layer of aubergines packed tightly, mozzarella, parmesan and seasoning. This was then repeated until all the ingredients were used finishing with the tomato sauce. I had certainly miscalculated the shrinkage that would occurred in the aubergines and this was going to be a very light supper!

One of the recipes I found suggested adding a layer of stale breadcrumbs at the end and then topping this with the remains of the cheese.Italian bread goes stale so quickly we had a ready supply! The breadcrumbs were tossed with a little olive oil and Parmesan and sprinkled on top. Put back in the EGG it was baked for about 40 minutes. I was hoping for a lovely bubbling crispy top but that was not to be.

As I had suggested the 8 inch drip pan was really a little too big preventing good circulation of heat into the dome. As a result the top looked a little bland and the sides rather than the top a little crispy. The pan was removed and the dish allowed to cool slightly and then it was served warm with some basil and freshly ground pepper.
This first attempt was an imperfect dish to be sure, but one that captured a lot of the essence of the one that inspired it. Rich, sumptuous and surprisingly meaty with a real umami essence. It was also good enough to know that over the months we would modify this a little and cook on a more appropriately sized EGG. Whilst very pleased with the development of the dish it still doesn’t quite match my holiday memory of that first mouthful in the Dolomites. When it does we will post the next installment – watch this space!

If you have a favourite recipe for this dish do please share it in the comments section

 

Melanzane alla Parmigano

February 15, 2018
: 2
: 1 hr
: 1 hr 30 min
: 2 hr 30 min
: Moderate

Baked aubergine, tomato and parmesan

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 Aubergines sliced lengthways into 5mm slices
  • 2 hands full of baby tomatoes halved
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • 4 shallots
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Glass of red wine
  • 100g Mozzarella
  • 75 g Parmesan
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Fresh Basil
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  • Step 1 Slice 2 aubergines lengthways into 5mm slices and sprinkle with salt and leave in a colander to drain for half an hour.
  • Step 2 Meanwhile, set the BGE to a dome temperature of around 180C and heat a little oil in the 8 in. drip pan, add the chopped shallots and cook till translucent then add the sliced garlic cloves cooking a little before the halved baby tomatoes go in lightly frying them off before adding the tinned tomatoes and red wine. Allow to simmer until the volume is reduced by about a third. Mash the tomatoes until reasonably smooth, season and add a little basil and sugar and simmer for a further 10 mins.
  • Step 3 Once this is completed and the EGG is again free, the aubergines should be washed, dried, brushed with oil and grilled or fried on the BGE with the lid closed being careful not to burn the aubergine.
  • Step 4 Decant the tomato sauce into a bowl and wash and lightly grease the 8 inch drip pan. Spread with a thin layer of tomato sauce, followed by a layer of aubergines packed tightly, mozzarella, parmesan and seasoning. This should then be repeated until all the ingredients are used, finishing with the tomato sauce. Toss the breadcrumbs with a little olive oil and Parmesan and sprinkle on top. Put back in the EGG and bake for about 40 minutes. When cooked remove the pan and allow to cool a little
  • Step 5 Serve warm with some basil and freshly ground pepper.

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2 thoughts on “Melanzane alla parmigiana – Aubergine, tomato and parmesan bake”

  • Wow! Who on earth wants to continue eating meat when you have such dishes as for example this one (apart from Jackie!?). Looks gorgeous and obviously tastes so too.. such a perfect combination of ingredients…. makes you feel as though you are in Italy just by reading and looking at the pictures!
    Fantastic! Well done chef xxxx

  • Well thank you!! Great to hear from you again! Yes we seem to have the tastes conquered – still working a little on the aesthetics! We now have a small pan to use on the travelling EGG so that should be a perfectly possible dish on the Mini BGE too

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