This recipe for cheesy eggplant and tomatoes always transports chef Theo Randall back to Italian holidays, eating dinner at the Osteria Bell’Italia in Puglia.
“Not a great name for an Italian restaurant,” Mr Randall admits, “but believe me the food is amazing. They make the best parmigiana in southern Italy.”
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Now, you can replicate the experience from the comfort of your own kitchen.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for oiling
- 1 garlic clove, finely sliced
- 8 basil leaves
- 600g tomato passata
- 4 eggplants, half peeled to give stripes (to help it cook evenly)
- 3 organic eggs, beaten
- 200g tipo 00 or all purpose flour
- 100ml sunflower oil
- 200g mozzarella, chopped
- 100g Parmesan, finely grated
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a heavy based saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add three tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic and fry for about 30 seconds, until the garlic is soft but has no colour. Add four of the basil leaves and cook for 30 seconds, then add the passata, reduce the heat and cook for about 15 minutes, until the sauce has reduced by half. Tear in the remaining basil and add the remaining olive oil. Season and set aside. Slice the eggplants into 1cm rounds. Transfer them to a colander and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 20 minutes to draw out the liquid, then pat the slices dry with kitchen paper.
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Have ready the beaten eggs in one bowl and the flour in another. Heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Dip each eggplant slice into the egg to coat, then place in the flour, taking care to fully coat each slice. Shake off any excess flour then fry, in batches, for three minutes on each side until they are all cooked through and have a nice, golden colour. Place on kitchen paper to drain.
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Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/160 degrees C fan/350 degrees F/Gas Mark 4. Lightly oil a baking dish with olive oil. Arrange a layer of cooked eggplant evenly in the bottom of the dish, spoon over one third of the tomato sauce, sprinkle over one third of the chopped mozzarella, and sprinkle over one third of the Parmesan. Repeat the layers twice more, finishing with the final layer of Parmesan. Bake the parmigiana for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden and crispy (give it up to another 10 minutes, if you need to).
The Italian Deli Cookbook by Theo Randall, photography by Lizzie Mayson, is published by Quadrille.
What’s your favourite Italian food? Are you a fan of eggplant?
– With PA
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