Eggplant Parmesan, known as “Melanzane alla Parmigiana” in Italy, is a dish that has captivated taste buds around the world with its rich flavors and comforting texture. This classic Italian recipe has a fascinating history that dates back to the Middle Ages and has since evolved into the beloved dish we know today.
The origin of Eggplant Parmesan can be traced back to Southern Italy, particularly the Campania and Sicily regions. Eggplants, originally from India, made their way to Italy through trade routes during the Middle Ages. The Italians embraced this exotic vegetable, and it soon became a staple in their cuisine. One of the earliest recorded recipes for this dish can be found in a 19th-century cookbook, highlighting its enduring popularity.
Eggplant Parmesan, or Melanzane alla Parmigiana, is said to have its roots in the city of Parma in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Although it’s not clear how the dish ended up with the name “Parmigiana,” it’s widely accepted that Parmesan cheese and the rich tomato sauce are essential components that make this dish so irresistible.
- Prepare the Eggplant Slices:
- Begin by slicing the eggplants into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Sprinkle both sides of each slice with salt and lay them out on paper towels. This step helps remove excess moisture and bitterness from the eggplants. Let them sit for about 20-30 minutes.
- Set Up Your Breading Station:
- In three separate bowls, place the flour in one, beat the eggs in another, and spread out the breadcrumbs in the third bowl. You’re creating a breading assembly line.
- Bread the Eggplant Slices:
- Take each eggplant slice, dip it first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then in the beaten eggs, and finally coat it with breadcrumbs, pressing gently to ensure they adhere well.
- Fry the Eggplant:
- Heat olive oil in a deep skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully place the breaded eggplant slices into the pan, making sure not to overcrowd them. Fry until they turn golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer the fried eggplant slices to a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil.
- Preheat the Oven:
- Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Assemble the Layers:
- In a 9×13 inch baking dish, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce. Place a single layer of fried eggplant slices on top of the sauce, slightly overlapping them. Sprinkle some grated Parmesan and mozzarella cheese on the eggplant. Repeat this process, creating multiple layers until you’ve used all your ingredients. Make sure to finish with a layer of cheese on top.
- Bake to Perfection:
- Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes. This allows the flavors to meld and the cheese to melt and bubble beautifully.
- The Final Touch:
- Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the top layer of cheese is golden and bubbling. Keep an eye on it to avoid over-browning.
- Garnish and Serve:
- Once out of the oven, let it rest for a few minutes. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. Slice and serve this mouthwatering Eggplant Parmesan hot, alongside a crisp salad or a serving of spaghetti.