Eggplant Parmigiana

Alrighty then – it’s been far two long between drinks as they say, so here for your weekend pleasure are two Italian recipes, both of which we enjoyed on the big trip. First up a true Italian classic, but no less delicious because of it, that we enjoyed in both Positano and Tuscany – Eggplant Parmigiana – layers of luscious eggplant, sandwiched with mozzarella, Parmesan and a basil leaf or two all tucked into a super-easy tomato sauce. I quite often eat vegetarian, so would happily have this with just a massive green salad, but it also works beautifully as a side for meat dishes. This is a real taste of Italy you can easily recreate for lunch or dinner with readily available ingredients – and be instantly transported! Next recipe coming, see below…!

1 x 400g tin chopped plum tomatoes in juice
1 x 400g tin pureed and sieved tomatoes or passata
1 clove garlic, crushed
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons caster sugar
50ml red wine
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 eggplants (800g), ends trimmed and cut into 1/2 – 1cm slices – rounds or lengthways whichever you fancy
200g firm mozzarella, grated
80g Parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 cup basil leaves, torn
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
60g buffalo mozzarella, torn into chunks
Put tomatoes and their juice in a medium sized pot over a gentle heat. Add garlic, sea salt and pepper, sugar and wine. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and allow to simmer for 25 minutes until reduced and thickened. Heating two tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan at a time, fry eggplant slices for a couple of minutes each side, over a medium/high heat, until soft and cooked through. repeat until all of the eggplant is cooked. There is a fine line here between dry tasteless eggplant, and mushy oily eggplant – the trick is to keep the pan fairly hot, then do not be tempted to add loads more oil all the time – you want to end up with slices that are cooked through, moist and tasty. (They take a lot longer than you think!)
OK, now it is just a matter of assembly. Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F) and very lightly brush the base and sides of a 17cm x 24cm oven dish with olive oil. (or you could use two smaller dishes like I did). Start with a very thin layer of tomato sauce, followed by snug slices of eggplant topped with grated mozzarella, a good sprinkling of Parmesan and a sprinkling of basil leaves, and a little salt and pepper. Repeat until all your bits have been used up – finishing with a layer of tomato sauce, a sprinkling of grated mozzarella and Parmesan and the buffalo mozzarella dotted over the top. Cook for 30 minutes, then allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving with a big green salad and a nice glass of red. Of course this can also be served as a side-dish with fish, chicken or meat, and is often served at room temperature. Serves 6 as a side dish or for lunch, or 4 as a vegetarian main.


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    Jade (from Germany, Bavaria)

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