Yes this is also known as eggplant parmigiana or eggplant parmesan, and you would think it is made with parmesan cheese. Well it isn’t. This dish is actually a southern Italian dish that I enjoyed (a lot) while being in Sicily, and it is not from Parma nor is it made traditionally with Parmesan cheese. Most likely the name comes from the word parmiciana which meant in Sicilian dialect a set of strips of wood that form a shutter, the same way the eggplant slices are placed one on top of the other.
Now, when you come across eggplant parmesan in the U.S. and other places, it usually contains tons of cheese, breadcrumbs, flour and eggs and you end up hardly tasting the eggplant. And that is a shame because eggplants are delicious and with so many health benefits. Although there are many variations, the basic form consists of eggplant, tomato sauce, olive oil, cheese and basil and that is what I have used as well.
I followed the basic recipe but made a few tiny changes: I made these in a sort of individual servings rather then layering everything in one big baking dish. The cheese used in this dish is usually caciocavallo or pecorino. Caciocavallo is semi-soft stretchy cheese made in southern Italy. I used kaseri, which is a greek sheep milk semi-soft cheese, but you could also use mozzarella. I also used the white Santorini eggplant which is sweeter and milder compared to the traditional purple eggplant, although I like both just the same. Finally I baked the eggplant slices a bit before assembling rather then frying this time, but you can also lightly saute them, making for a lighter tasting dish.
So try this out. It is a dish full of antioxidants from the eggplant, tomato and olive oil. Just make sure to use cheese lightly.
Healthy Eggplant Parmigiana
- 3-4 wide eggplants about 2 pounds
- 5 ounces shredded Kaseri Cheese or Caciocavallo or Mozzarella
- Olive Oil
For the tomato sauce
- 20 ounces peeled and diced tomatoes
- 2 medium onions chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- Salt/Pepper to taste
- Cut eggplant slices about 1/2 inch thick. If you are cooking in a baking dish, cutting the eggplant lengthwise may work better, otherwise you can cut horizontally like I have done.
- Place eggplant slices in a colander, salt and let the eggplant sit for about an hour, this helps remove the bitterness. If you are using the white Santorini, you can skip this step.
- Preheat oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 Celsius), if baking eggplant. If you are sautéing eggplant then just preheat oven at 350 Fahrenheit (180 Celsius).
- Prepare sauce by sautéing onion until translucent in 2 teaspoons olive oil. Add garlic continue sautéing for another minute.
- Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
- Now either lightly saute the slices in olive oil placing them on napkins, or bake in preheated oven of 450 degrees Fahrenheit (230 Celsius). To bake, brush a pan with olive oil, toss the eggplant slices in olive oil and bake for 15-20 minutes.
- Once your eggplant slices have been sautéed or baked begin assembling. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 Celsius).
- Brush a pan with olive oil or you can spread tomato sauce, place the eggplant, then tomato sauce, then basil and then cheese, repeat this until you have finished with a layer of cheese. It is kind of like putting together lasagna. I also added a few drops of olive oil between layers.
- Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until eggplant is soft.