Looking for comfort? Reach for layers. Only today, they’re not in the form of a worn-in jumper or fluffy fleece, but layers of golden fried aubergine, melting mozzarella and smooth tomato sauce. Aubergine parmigiana – or parmigiana di melanzane to the Italians – is a true comfort classic, and for good reason.
From just a handful of ingredients, some gentle frying and a healthy hit of Italian cheese, comes a warming dish rich in savoury flavour. In contrast to many other comfort foods, aubergine parmigiana is also low-carb (and no less delicious for it). It’s very easy to make too, with the only real effort coming from frying the aubergine slices in batches (a crucial step, so don’t rush it).
Like many classic Italian dishes, the origins of parmigiana di melanzane are contested. The regions of Campania and Sicily both claim to have birthed it, but we like to think of aubergine parmigiana as a collaborative effort; it was likely that it did first emerge from the island of Sicily, where Arab colonisers first introduced the aubergine to Italy. The dish was then improved on in Naples with the addition of milky mozzarella.
Our aubergine parmigiana recipe
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Calories per serving: 926kcal
- 4 large aubergines
- 100ml olive oil, for frying and drizzling
- 300ml homemade tomato sauce or shop-bought passata
- 300g mozzarella (two balls)
- 150g parmesan, grated
- 15g fresh basil leaves, torn
- 50g breadcrumbs, fresh or dried
Chef’s tip: If you want to make this dish vegetarian, just swap out the parmesan for a vegetarian alternative.
Prep and fry the aubergines
- Drain the mozzarella and cut into thin slices.
- Slice the aubergines into 5mm rounds.
- In a deep frying pan, heat two inches of oil until hot.
- Fry your aubergines in batches until golden on both sides.
- Remove from the pan and drain on a baking tray lined with kitchen roll.
Assemble your parmigiana
- In a large rectangular baking dish (a pyrex is perfect), make a layer of aubergine slices, overlapping them as you go.
- Cover your aubergine base with a thin layer of passata, then top with a quarter of the mozzarella, parmesan and basil.
- Repeat the layers in this pattern (aubergine, sauce, cheese) until you’ve used it all up, (don’t worry if you end on a layer of aubergine).
- Top with a final dusting of parmesan, a scattering of breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil.
Bake your parmigiana
- Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan/gas mark 4).
- Once hot, bake your parmigiana for 30 minutes, or until golden.
- Remove your parmigiana from the oven and leave to rest, before serving warm.
Chef’s tip: If you have time to get ahead, your parmigiana will benefit from being left to sit for 4-12 hours after the first bake. This intensifies the flavours and helps the parmigiana layers to firm up. When you’re ready to eat, simply reheat at 180°C (160°C fan/gas mark 4) for 10-15 minutes, then slide under a hot grill for a few minutes until the top is a riot of golden bubbles.
Aubergine parmigiana wine pairing recommendation
The combination of fried aubergine, milky mozzarella and tomato sauce brings a lot of bold flavours to the table, so a red wine will work better than white for this dish. Any Italian red with good acidity is a promising start, but for the perfect match we’d hone in on a less-known grape from the north of Italy: Dolcetto. The wine’s acidic edge will match the acidity from the tomato sauce well, while the black pepper floral notes will pair perfectly with the buttery fried aubergines.
Do I have to fry the aubergine slices?
Not necessarily. We prefer to fry them because it gives the finished dish a richer texture and deeper flavour, but for a lighter version, you could also bake or griddle your aubergine slices. To do this, brush your aubergine rounds with some olive oil and sprinkle with some salt, then either bake in a 200°C (180 fan/gas mark 6) oven until golden, or cook in a hot griddle pan until charred on both sides. After this, you can follow our recipe in the exact same way.
What should I serve with aubergine parmigiana?
Aubergine parmigiana is substantial enough that it needs little more than a crisp green salad dressed with olive, salt and lemon. If you want to pull out all the stops, you could boost the carb count by serving some freshly baked focaccia or ciabatta bread alongside it.
Can you freeze aubergine parmigiana?
Aubergine parmigiana is perfect for freezing. Simply let your baked dish cool completely, then cover with cling film and store in the freezer for up to three months. When you’re ready to eat it, let your parmigiana di melanzane defrost overnight in the fridge, then reheat gently for 30 minutes in an oven preheated to 180°C (160°C fan/gas mark 4).