A Lighter Version Of Eggplant Parmesan, or Melanzane alla Parmigiana Light

Melanzane alla Parmigiana, Eggplant Parmesan, is one of Naple’s signature dishes, and extraordinarily good. However, it takes time to prepare, and it is quite rich — not the sort of thing one can make when rushed or on a diet. This lighter version is easy to do, and you can expect people to ask for seconds.

To serve (perhaps) 4:

  • 2 large eggplants, stemmed and sliced into 1/4-inch (0.5 cm) slices
  • Salt
  • Extravirgin Olive Oil
  • 1 quart (1 liter) of thick tomato sauce (bottled is fine)
  • Dried oregano
  • 2/3 pound (300 g) fresh ricotta, well drained
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A few teaspoons of freshly grated Parmigiano
  • 1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves (optional)

Sprinkle the sliced eggplant with salt and put the pieces in a colander for a half hour to draw some of the moisture from them. Rinse them well when the time is up.

Preheat your oven to 400 F (200 C).

Take a 9 by 14-inch (about 22 by 35 cm) oven pan and drizzle some olive oil over the bottom, and then a little tomato sauce. Lay down a layer of sliced eggplant — about a third of it, cutting pieces if need be to fill in holes and make an even layer — and drizzle more tomato over it. Dab some of the ricotta over the slices, dust lightly with oregano, season with some basil (if you’re using it), pepper, and a touch of salt.

Put down a second layer of eggplant, trimming pieces as necessary to make an even layer. Drizzle with more tomato sauce — don’t stint — oregano, basil, and dab with more ricotta. Season again to taste, and put down a final layer of eggplant.

Season with oregano, basil, salt, and pepper, dab the remaining ricotta, and sprinkle most if not all of the remaining tomato over everything — the sauce and the eggplant should be at the same level. Dust the surface with a little freshly grated Parmigiano, add another light drizzle of olive oil, and bake for about an hour and a half.

A few observations:

  • In traditional eggplant Parmesan the slices of eggplant are fried and then the dish is assembled. Since they are not fried here, the dish needs to cook for longer in the oven. On the positive side, it is much lighter.
  • The traditional recipe calls for Mozzarella. I prefer to use ricotta in making the light version, because it gives off less moisture as it cooks. If you instead want to use mozzarella, slice it and let the slices drain in a colander before you use them.
  • I used Parmigiano because I had Parmigiano in the house. You could also use grated Pecorino Romano, and if you wanted a cheesier dish add some Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano to the inner layers as well.
  • Last thing: As I said, fresh basil is optional. If you have it, it adds a very nice touch. Likewise, if you want you could add some kick with the sparing addition of hot pepper flakes.

More Parmigiana:

Melanzane alla Parmigiana, the Traditional Recipe
Walter’s Variazione della Parmigiana, Illustrated


Tags: , , , ,

Categories: Antipasti and Starters, Eggplant

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.


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