Eggplant is a strange vegetable: it feels relatively hard and the white meat of the eggplant does not look attractive. But once cooked, it becomes soft, smoky and sweet.
Many Italian-American variations use breaded eggplant slices that are fried before assembling the casserole. As a result, the dish tends to get relatively greasy. This recipe focusses on the two stars in the casserole: the eggplant and the tomato sauce.
Best served with a refreshing salad.
Making a tomato sauce is an ideal way to clean out your refrigerator. Many leftover vegetables and herbs can be added to this sauce.
I prefer to peel the eggplant before I slice it, as the skin tends to remain tough.
Ingredients for my tomato sauce:
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- Two tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Bunch of parsley (stalks chopped finely, leaves chopped)
- Some basil leaves
- 1 Can of chopped tomatoes or tomato passata
- Optional: some finely chopped red pepper
- Optional: finely chopped celery
- Optional: finely chopped carrot
- Magical secret ingredient: some smoked paprika
- Magical secret ingredient: 2 fillets of anchovies.
- 2 eggplants, peeled and sliced into 3 mm (1/8 of an inch) slices.
- 2 eggs.
- 1 ball of Mozzarella cheese.
- Grated Parmesan cheese.
Making the tomato sauce:
- Fry the chopped onion in the olive oil until the onion starts coloring. If using the anchovies, add them and stir through. The fillets will dissolve quickly.
- Add the red pepper, celery and carrot if using.
- Add the garlic and the chopped parsley stalks and stir through. Fry for a minute or so (you don't want the garlic to burn and turn bitter).
- Add the smoked paprika.
- Add the chopped tomato or passata.
- Add the remaining parsley.
- Add the same amount of water and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer for 45 minutes, regularly checking if the sauce is not too dry; add salt and pepper to taste.
- Depending on your preference, you could now use a hand blender to make the sauce smoother.
- Take 3/4 of the tomato sauce and let it cool down.
- Add two eggs to the cooled-down tomato sauce.
Preparing the casserole:
The original recipe calls for frying the eggplant slices until lightly browned. By increasing the cooking time you can skip this step.
- Cover the bottom of the casserole pan with some tomato sauce.
- Add a layer of eggplant.
- Add a layer of tomato / egg mixture.
- Add some grated Parmesan cheese and some mozzarella.
- Repeat until you have enough eggplant slices left over for the last layer.
- Add the last layer of eggplant.
- Add a layer of tomato sauce.
- Cover with the rest of the mozzarella and add more Parmesan cheese.
Cook in the oven for 45 minutes at 150° Celsius (300° Fahrenheit). Then set the heat to 225° Celsius (435° Fahrenheit) and cook until golden brown (about 15 minutes).
Take out of the oven. Let it sit for 15 minutes to let the flavors blend together even more. Decorate with some basil leaves, torn into pieces.