An excellent vegetarian main course and a sure shot crowd pleaser. This is a variation of the traditional Italian “melanzane parmigiana” where the eggplants are thinly sliced and pan fried before baking. I love the overall look and taste of the dish. A great technique to cook any vegetable this way. This would actually make a great vegetarian “roast” for a Sunday lunch or even Christmas Eve dinner !!
Serve the eggplant with some quinoa, barley or couscous on the side, a crunchy fresh salad and crusty bread to mop up the gooey crusty remains in the dish.
What you need-
1 large eggplant
1 ball of fresh Mozzarella
400 gms Tomato puree, canned
2 cloves garlic, minced
Fresh basil and thyme
½ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup parmesan
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Chilly flakes (optional)
Putting it all together-
In a saucepan, heat some olive oil. Add the mince garlic and cook for a minute. Add the tomato puree, salt and pepper, some fresh basil and thyme, oregano and chilly flakes, if using. Add a splash of water and allow to cook covered on medium heat for about 10-15 mins.
Heat the oven to 180C. Cut slits down the eggplant to as far as possible, without cutting all the way through. Rub olive oil inside the slits and season well inside. Add a slice of mozzarella inside each slit with a basil leaf.
Pour the tomato sauce in a baking dish and place the eggplant in the center. Drizzle with some olive oil and season on top. Cover the whole dish with foil and bake for one hour.
After an hour, the eggplant should be cooked. Remove foil, top with breadcrumbs and parmesan and bake uncovered for another 15 mins till the crumbs and golden and crisp.
Remove from oven allow to rest for 5-10 mins. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.