Recipe provided by Hetty McKinnon
extra-virgin olive oil
2 brown onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes
a splash of red wine
1.4 kg tomato passata (about bottles)
1bunch of basil, leaves picked and roughly
torn (or you can use parsley if you prefer)
pinch of sugar
sea salt and black pepper
3 large eggplants
140 g (2 cups) good-quality fresh or dried
breadcrumbs, plus extra if needed
200 g (2 cups) grated parmesan, plus extra to flavour the breadcrumbs (optional)
pinch of dried oregano (optional)
sea salt and black pepper
To prepare the sauce, pour a generous amount of olive oil into a pot over a low heat.
Fry the onion, garlic and chilli together with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper until the
onion is translucent. Add a splash of red wine to the onion and cook it off. Add the passata,
then fill one of the empty bottles with water and add to the sauce (you may need a bit more
depending on how thick the sauce is). Add the basil and sugar and bring the sauce to the
boil. Simmer on low heat for ½– hours. Be sure to check the sauce as you go – you don’t
want it to be super thick, it needs to be runny enough to drench the parmigiana. Once
ready, taste and season to your liking with salt and pepper.
Prepare the melanzane by slicing the eggplants into cm rounds. Whisk the eggs together
in a bowl and add salt and pepper. Place the breadcrumbs in a separate shallow bowl – you
can leave them plain or add some grated parmesan and dried oregano to flavour them.
Coat each eggplant slice with the egg mixture and then the breadcrumbs, and set aside
on a clean plate.
Once all the eggplant has been crumbed, add a generous amount of oil to a frying pan set
over a medium–high heat and allow the oil to get hot. Drop a test eggplant slice in – if it
doesn’t immediately sizzle when it hits the pan, it’s not hot enough. Once the oil is hot,
start frying the eggplant in batches for minutes or so on each side until cooked. Rest the
cooked eggplant slices on some paper towel. (I like to clean the frying pan in between with
a paper towel, so you don’t accidentally cook burnt breadcrumbs.)
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
To assemble the parmigiana, take a medium-sized ovenproof dish and ladle in a scoop of
the sauce to coat the bottom. Cover the surface with your first layer of eggplant (you want
the eggplant to be tightly packed). Add more sauce on top of the eggplant so it’s all covered
and sprinkle over a generous handful of parmesan. Repeat this method until you have
reached the top of your dish – I like to save my ‘best looking’ eggplant circles for the top
layer. Finish with a generous amount of sauce and cheese and a sprinkle of breadcrumbs
for a little crunch.
Cover with foil and bake in the oven for hour, then remove the foil and bake for another
minutes so the top goes golden. Allow the parmigiana to rest for minutes before
serving, so it’s easy to plate up. Serve with crunchy bread to mop your plate clean.
This is an excellent base sauce to eat with pasta.
Freeze any leftovers to make for an easy after-work dinner.
Family by Hetty McKinnon, publishing by Plum, RRP $39.99, photo credit Luisa Brimble