Eggplant Parmesan

Melanzana Parmigiana
Eggplant Parmesan

This dish, a recipe from Podere La Fonte,  was the hands-down favorite of Il Campo Cucina students this fall. And surprise, it was not made by Emanuela, but by her husband, Marco, with the help of their son Lorenzo and his girlfriend Jessica. It takes time to prepare, but is so worth the effort. Make a large batch, because you will want seconds and maybe thirds, and then left-overs. Enjoy this crispy cheesy tangy savory treat with your own homegrown eggplants or run to the market and buy everything you need. But by all means make it!

(8 servings)

2 medium eggplants, preferably the light violet colored Italian variety
1 liter of sunflower seed oil (or substitute with peanut oil)
½ pound fresh mozzarella cheese (ideally the kind sold in a water bath)
½ pound finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 cups aglione sauce (see recipe below)

First, prepare the aglione sauce and set it cooking at a low simmer (see recipe above).
While the sauce is cooking, prepare the eggplant. Cut the eggplants into ½” thick disks and spread them out on a layer of paper towels. Sprinkle fine salt over the eggplant slices and let them sweat for at least thirty minutes, then turn over and repeat on the other side. After a half hour more, blot dry with clean paper towels. This process is important for removing the bitterness from the eggplant; it also makes the eggplant softer when it cooks.
Next, heat approximately ¾” sunflower seed oil in a wide bottomed sautee pan or skillet over medium high heat. The oil should be hot but not smoking. Fry the eggplant slices in batches, turning the slices over as they turn golden brown and cooking on both sides until tender and golden. Remove the cooked eggplant from the skillet and let drain on a sheet of paper towels. Continue cooking until all the slices are done.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius
Using a casserole dish 3-4” deep and 12 – 15” wide, begin assembling the eggplant parmesan. First, place a layer of the cooked eggplant slices on the bottom of the casserole dish. Spread a thin layer of aglione sauce over the eggplant, then arrange ½’ to 1” chunks of fresh mozzarella over the sauce. Sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese, then plae another layer of eggplant slices over top. Repeat this process until all the ingredients are done. The final layer should be a generous slathering of sauce, followed by more mozzarella, and finally a very generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese.
Place the casserole in the oven and let cook for 40 minutes or until a lovely rich red-golden crust forms over the top.
Remove from the oven, let cool for ten minutes then serve.

Sugo Aglione
Garlic Tomato Sauce

Gently sauté many whole cloves of garlic in about a ¼ cup of olive oil, until blonde and soft inside. Mash the garlic into a paste with a fork. Add to the oil/garlic mixture 1 teaspoon chili flakes, 1 fresh bay leaf, and 32 oz good zesty home made tomato sauce or store bought in a pinch, fresh flat leaf parsley, and celery tops.  Let it all cook down slowly for approximately an hour. Add salt to taste.