Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan)
Over the last couple of years I feel like I’ve tried every jarred tomato sauce on the market and have always been disappointed. Too sweet, too thin, too bitter – never right, I felt like Goldilocks. It had got to the point where I had considered creating our own until I received an email a couple of weeks ago from Melissa Vitelli of Jar Goods. She asked if she could send me a sample of her Classic Red and ever hopeful, I said yes but was not overly optimistic given my experiences. It was perfection! Just the right amount of sweetness and bursting with flavor and richness. The first night I tossed it with Spaghetti and the second night, I added some cream, vodka and chili for the perfect Penne alla Vodka. My search was over and I’m over the moon to be selling it on Many Kitchens.
I got to meet Melissa and her sister-in-law Laura this week and hear the origins of their Classic Red. Laura’s father has been simmering this sauce for 50 years and agreed to pass on the family’s secret recipe. It seems that Laura too had been frustrated by the lack of a decent sauce on the market and I’m grateful that she has filled that hole.
The sauce is by no means limited to pasta sauces but can be used as a base in anything from Chicken Cacciatore to Pizza. This weekend I used it while making Melanzane alla Parmigiana (adapted from Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cook Book) and not only did it cut down my cooking time by half but it was also the best one I have ever made.
Melanzane all Parmigiana
Serves 4 people
3 medium eggplant
1 jar of tomato sauce (Classic Red)
1 mozzarella, grated
¼ cup of grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Peel the eggplant and slice lengthways (about ¼ inch thick)
3. Make a layer of eggplant in a colander standing over a bowl.
4. Salt generously and continue layering and salting until all the eggplant is used.
5. Leave for at least 30 minutes and then dry the slices with paper towels.
6. In a large skillet, pour enough oil to fully cover the pan and turn the heat to high.
7. When the oil is sizzling, add the eggplant with tongs and be careful not to get splattered as it spits. Do not overcrowd the pan.
8. Fry on both sides until golden brown and repeat until all the eggplant is used.
9. Transfer the eggplant to a platter lined with paper towels and cover with more paper towels to remove the excess oil.
10. In an oven proof dish, make a layer of eggplant.
11. Cover the eggplant with a few spoonfuls of Classic Red and smooth over with the back of a spoon.
12. Cover the sauce with grated mozzarella and sprinkle some Parmesan.
13. Repeat these layers – the top layer should be just eggplant and Parmesan.
14. Bake for 30 minutes and let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.