Nick said this is the "Best thing you've ever made..." (which, if you know Nick, is a big statement as he is The Chairman to my Iron Chef) and, to further prove how good this is, when I asked him what he wanted for dinner last night he said "How about eggplant parm?!?!" Hmmm....I think two fulls pans of eggplant parmesan, eaten by just the two of us, within one week, is a bit much - but hey who am I to judge (as I just admitted to eating 1/2 of this batch within a few quick days).
I made this earlier in the week when it was our, oh I don't know, 100th snow fall of the season. Gag. What does a girl have to do to get some chirping birds and green grass around here?!?! To look on the bright side, if anything, whipping wind and snow drifts do warrent overeating and comfort food so that's what you have here....I just hope this is the last comfort food meal I make this year.
I could write a really long and drawn out post about how the Bonistalli family is responsible for my love of eggplant parmesean (which ranks in the top 5 of Sarah's favorite foods...) because John Bonistalli, my friend Jenna's dad, would make us eggplant parmesan when we were little girls, and then, when Jenna and I were "old" enough to work (ie. 14) our first job was at Comella's Italian Cafe in Newton, MA, which is owned by John's friend - which serves, in my opinion, the best eggplant parm out there. I was on the phone with Jenna while I was prepping the eggplant and demanded that she respond to this post with her dad's recipe (he combines eggplant and zucchini).
Since I didn't have John's or Comella's recipes at my fingertips I decided to go to the next best thing, Mario Batali. This is his recipe and it turned out fantastic.
Mario Batali's Parmigiana di Melanzane:
- 2 pounds (about 2 medium-sized) eggplant
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup fresh bread crumbs, seasoned with 1/4 chopped fresh basil leaves and 1/4 cup pecorino
- 2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce, recipe follows
- 1 pound ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 2 Eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Wash and towel dry the eggplant. Slice the eggplant horizontally about 1/4-inch thick. Place the slices in a large colander, sprinkle with salt and set aside to rest about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse the eggplant and dry on towels.
*I love this idea and had never tried it before...it really gets all the water out of the eggplant so it cooks perfectly and isn't underdone or soupy.
While you're letting the eggplant sit in its salt bath start the sauce. I bought a jar of Mario's tomato sauce last year and, sadly, didn't like it. To me all the sauce tasted like was thyme (Nick agreed). So, instead of the 3 tablespoons of thyme he calls for here I used 1 and it was perfect.
Basic Tomato Sauce:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped *I used 1 tbl
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick as hot cereal. Season with salt and serve.
This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.
Okay, back to the eggplant, in a saute pan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil until just smoking. Press the drained eggplant pieces into the egg then the seasoned bread crumb mixture and saute until light golden brown on both sides. Repeat with all of the pieces. In a baking dish lay out the 4 largest pieces of eggplant. Place 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce over each piece and place a thin slice of mozzarella on top of each. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and top each with the next smallest piece of eggplant, then sauce then mozzarella. Repeat the layering process until all the ingredients have been used, finishing again with the Parmigiano. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the top of each little stack is golden brown and bubbly, about 15 minutes