Every self-respecting Sicilian man or woman can recognize the unmistakable smell of a freshly baked Pamigiana, even before looking at it. And how to describe the taste sensation, after biting the crispy parmesan crust and reaching the layers of fried aubergines, sunk into fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella or caciocavallo cheese? Ladies and gentlemen, here is the Sicilian Parmigiana! One-dish meal, appetizer or side dish. Hot, lukewarm and even cold (that allows you to better appreciate every single flavor), Parmigiana is one of the most loved dishes of the Sicilian cooking, a traditional recipe that every southern family cherishes and hands down from one generation to the other.
And if we wanted to know more about its history, we would come across to one of the fiercest gastronomic disputes in our country, because both Sicily and the cities of Naples and Parma claim to have the origin of this particular cooking style.
But the theory stating that eggplants were brought in Sicily from India in 15th century is enough for us to believe that this can be definetely considered a Sicilian dish. Furthermore, according to another assumption, the name Parmigiana comes from the Sicilian word “parmiciana”, meaning a set of overlapped wooden slats forming the windows shutters and that recall the layers of aubergines and seasonings making up this tasty dish.
Finally, to dispel any doubt about its possible Emilian origin, the Accademia della Crusca ( the most important research institution of the Italian language) states that our Parmigiana has nothing to do with parmesan cheese : the ancient and original recipe, in fact, includes Sicilian pecorino in place of parmesan cheese.
Whatever its origins, this is a dish you can eat wherever in Italy and in any season, thanks to the availability of its main ingredient which can be also grown in greenhouses.
Here for you the classical recipe, full of basil leaves. It can also be enriched, for a tastier variant, with some hard-boiled eggs.
Photo: Fabio Cavasenna
Difficulty Level: Medium
Servings: 8 people
- 1,5 kg oval black eggplants
- 1,4 l tomato sauce
- 500 g mozzarella cheese
- 150 g parmesan cheese
- 1/2 yellow onion
- extra-virgin olive oil as required
- black pepper as required
- some basil leaves
- salt as required
- peanut oil as required(for frying)
Wash and dry the aubergines. Using a large chef’s knife, slice off the top and bottom of the eggplant, then cut thin slices lengthwise (4-5 mm thick). Sprinkle the slices with the salt and let stand in a colander for 1 hour to drain some liquid. Put a plate and a weight over them to increase the pressure.
In the meantime, dice the mozzarella cheese and let it drain.
In a large saucepan, heat a little olive oil. Add the chopped onions and sauté until fragrant (2-3 min.) Add the tomato sauce and a little water, season with salt and cook to a simmer for about 40 minutes. When it is ready, do not forget to add the chopped basil leaves.
Dry the eggplant slices with paper towels to remove any exceeding moisture. Fry them in abundant seed oil over medium high heat. Add the slices, a few at a time, to the hot oil. Fry on both sides until lightly golden and then drain them on paper towels.