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X Italian Pasta Dishes
Melanzana alla parmigiana
Melanzana alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan with Pasta and Ground Veal)
Originated from: Southern Italy (North America version)
Occasion: Any time
Contributed by: Mary Melfi

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For Home-Made Tomato Sauce*

5 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes [about 12 large ripe tomatoes], diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

* Any favorite home-made tomato sauce can be used

For Preparing Eggplant Slices ["Sweating"]
3 large eggplants
1/2 tablespoon salt

For Precooking Eggplant Slices

Version I [Frying]
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons all-purpose vegetable oil [for frying]

Version II and III [Broiling or Baking]
about 3 tablespoons olive oil

For the Pasta
A large pot of water
Home-made lasagna noodles [See recipe]*
2 teaspoons salt

*Store-bought lasagna noodles can be used; if lasagna noodles are unavailable other types of pasta can also be used, though large style noddles work the best for this style of dish

For Precooking the Veal **
1 tablespoon oil

For Layering Eggplant Slices in Casserole Dish

1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
1 pound Mozzarella cheese [about 2 cups], finely sliced or diced
1 pound ground veal [about 2 cups], sauted **
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped

For Decorating Serving Bowls
about 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

** This dish can be made without veal, making it a truly vegetarian dish.


To Make the Tomato sauce

1. Fry garlic till golden in olive oil.

2. Add tomatoes and seasonings and simmer for about 5 minutes.

3. Add tomato paste and incorporate well.

4. Simmer about 15 minutes.

To Prepare the Ground Veal

5. Saute the ground veal in a frying pan in a touch of oil till it is browned (about 5 minutes).

6. Drain the veal in a strainer, removing any excess oil and reserve.

To Prepare the Eggplant Slices for Use

7. Cut the tops and ends off the eggplants (discard).

8. Slice the eggplants crosswise into 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch thick slices [Some cooks peel the eggplant and some do not].

9. Sprinkle salt on the eggplant slices and the place them on a wooden board (or on large plates).

10. Let the eggplants stand for about 15 minutes (The eggplants will "sweat out water").

11. Place the eggplant slices in a strainer, and rinse out the water they sweated out (This is done to remove the bitterness from the vegetables).

12. Pat the eggplant slices dry with absorbent paper.


To Precook the Eggplant Slices for the Casserole Dish

Version I

13a. Dredge the eggplant slices in seasoned flour.

14a. Fry the eggplant slices in oil for about 3 minutes on each side.

15a. Place the fried eggplant slices on absorbent kitchen paper towels to absorb excess oil.


Version II

13b. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil.

14b. Place them in a baking pan.Turn on the broiler and broil the eggplant slices for about 3 minutes.

15b. Turn over and broil for about another 3 minutes.


Version III

13c. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil.

14c. Brush two baking sheets with olive oil.

15c. Place the eggplant slices on the baking sheets and bake at 350 F degrees for about 6 minutes.


For cooking pasta

16. Bring large pot of water to boil. Add salt to the water.

17. Plunge lasagna noodles in water and cook until the pasta is "almost" done (The pasta will be further cooked in the oven).

18. Drain.

19. Place the lasagna noodles in a bowl and add a touch of sauce to keep them from sticking together.

For Layering the Eggplant Slices in the Casserole

20. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

21. In a bowl mix Parmesan cheese, sauted ground veal [if using], breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, chopped garlic and oregano. Add salt and pepper.

22. Place about 1/4 cup of tomato sauce at the bottom of the casserole.

23. Add a layer of precooked lasagna noodles

24. Arrange slices of fried eggplants on top of the lasagna noodles.

25. Sprinkle some of the mixture of Parmesan cheese, ground veal etc..

26. Add some tomato sauce.

27. Add sliced or diced mozzarella.

28. Add another layer of eggplant slices, pasta noodles, Parmesan cheese etc. repeating the process until all the ingredients are used.

29. Top with shredded Mozzarella cheese (No red sauce).

30. Cover the casserole dish.

31. Bake in a 350 F degrees oven for about 25 minutes and then remove the cover.

32. Turn on the broiler and broil for about 3 more minutes or until the top layer of mozzarella turns golden (Optional).

33. Cut into squares and place in individual bowls.

34. Decorate the individual bowls with fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese and serve hot.


This recipe could easily be called lasagna with eggplants, except this dish is not necessarily made with lasagna. In some parts of Southern Italy cooks use spaghetti, others penne and so on. Some cooks turn the veal into meatballs rather than using it ground. Other cooks use beef. And some cooks, of course, go the vegetarian root (No meat at all!). The variations are limitless. As far as I know this dish was not done in Molise prior to World War II. Nowadays, of course, they probably are. It seems layered eggplants with pasta is a very popular dish throughout the world (Including Greece). In any case, some food historians seem to think this style of dish had its origin in Sicily, others believe it had its origin in Naples, Campania. It's a complicated dish to make, but if it comes out right, the effort is well worth it. Photo: Mary Melfi.

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