Please. Cook. This.
A vegetarian classic which will have you wondering why you ever eat meat. So unctuous and rich. This Italian heavyweight takes a little more than your average dish in preparation time but the beauty is that it’s all prep work, once that’s done you can entertain guests and wait for the oven to ping. This really is a great recipe for a dinner party and a wonderful alternative to a meaty lasagna served with a crisp green salad.
4 large aubergines
2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
Fine salt (for salting the aubergine)
1 1/2 Tbsp crushed garlic
2oo ml red wine
1 Tsp sugar
1 Tbsp Dried Oregano
250g buffalo mozzarella, torn into little chunks
200g finely grated parmesan
50g panko breadcrumbs
Small handful fresh basil
Olive oil for cooking
To begin you need to prepare the aubergines, they need to be salted for 3o minutes and then drained to remove any bitterness. To do this, prepare the aubergine by slicing away the green stalk then slice the aubergine length ways into very thin slices trying to keep them around 5mm each. Using a fine salt, sprinkle the aubergine slices on both sides (don’t go wild, a gentle sprinkle will do) and add them to a colander over a sink. They need to drain for 30 minutes, meanwhile prepare the sauce.
Add a good glug of olive oil to a deep frying pan add the garlic and heat this gently allowing the garlic to infuse the oil, only a minute or two, you don’t want the garlic to colour. Add the wine, bring to the boil and reduce by half it’s original volume. Add the tomatoes, sugar and oregano and season with salt and black pepper. Bring back to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Using a masher gently press the tomatoes to extract all the flavour. Leave the sauce to simmer for around 40 minutes, cool slightly and then blend to a smooth puree.
Preheat the oven to 150°c. Drain the aubergine slices thoroughly under cold water before drying each slice on kitchen paper. You now need to divide the aubergines into 2 piles and cook each half differently. Bring a large pan of water to the boil (don’t add salt) and blanch one half of the aubergines for 2 minutes each before removing and drying on kitchen paper. For the second half of remaining aubergines heat a generous layer of olive oil to a high heat in a frying pan and fry the aubergine in batches until golden brown, around 2 minutes per slice on each side, before removing and draining on kitchen paper.
At this stage you have your blanched aubergine, fried aubergine and sauce prepared and it’s time to build.
Keep 25g Parmesan back for the breadcrumb mixture. Using a large deep ovenproof dish, spread a thin layer of sauce on the base then a layer of fried aubergine, a sprinkle of parmesan and a few chunks of mozzarella. Then repeat this process but this time make a blanched aubergine layer. Continue layering until you finish with a layer of sauce on top. Using a small bowl mix the reserved 25g of parmesan with the breadcrumbs and a Tbsp of olive oil and scatter this mixture over the top. Cover with foil and bake in a low oven for 1 hour. After an hour, turn the heat up to 180°c, remove the foil and cook for a further 15 minutes or until the top is golden and crunchy.
Remove from the oven and rest for 5 minutes, dress with torn basil and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve with a crisp green salad.