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X Italian Pasta Dishes
Melanzana alla parmigiana
Melanzana alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan with Pasta and Fresh Italian Sausage)
Originated from: Southern Italy
Occasion: Special events
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
3 large eggplants
1/2 tablespoon salt

For Precooking Eggplant Slices

Version I [for 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 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, such as spaghetti or penne

Preparing Sausage Meat **
1. Remove casings from fresh Italian sausages.
2. In a touch of oil saute the sausage meat (about 5 minutes).

For Layering Eggplant Slices in Casserole Dish

1 pound sausage meat, sauted
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
1 pound Mozzarella cheese [about 2 cups], finely sliced or diced
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 also be made without any meat, making it a delightful vegetarian dish to serve.


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 Sausage Meat

5. Remove the casings from the fresh sausage.

6. Saute the fresh sausage in a frying pan in a touch of oil till it is browned (about 5 minutes).

7. Place the sausage meat on kitchen paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

To Prepare the Eggplant Slices for Use

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

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

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

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

12. 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).

13. Pat the eggplant slices dry with absorbent paper.


To Precook the Eggplant Slices for the Casserole Dish

Version I

14a. Dredge the eggplant slices in seasoned flour.

15a. Fry the eggplant slices in oil for about 3 minutes on each side.

16a. Place the fried eggplant slices on absorbent kitchen paper towels to absorb excess oil.


Version II

14b. Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil.

15b. Place them in a baking pan.Turn on the broiler and broil the eggplant slices for about 3 minutes.

16b. Turn over and broil for about another 3 minutes.


Version III

14c. Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil.

15c. Brush two baking sheets with olive oil.

16c. Place the eggplant slices on the baking sheets and bake at 350 F degrees for about 6 minutes.


For cooking pasta

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

18. Plunge lasagna noodles [or any other type of pasta] in water and cook until the pasta is "almost" done (The pasta will be further cooked in the oven).

19. Drain.

20. Place the pasta in a bowl and add a touch of sauce to keep them from sticking together.

For Layering the Eggplant Slices in the Casserole

21. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

22. In a bowl mix Parmesan cheese, sauted sausage meat, chopped parsley, chopped garlic and oregano. Add salt and pepper.

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

24. Add a layer of pre-cooked pasta.

25. Arrange slices of fried eggplants on top of the pasta.

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

27. Add some tomato sauce.

28. Add sliced or diced mozzarella.

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

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

31. Cover the casserole dish.

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

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

34. Cut into squares and place in individual bowls.

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


Prior to World War II sausage meat was often used to flavor pasta and/or vegetable dishes in Southern Italy. As most people made their own sausages they were readily available. In the summer cooks used dried sausages in their dishes and in the winter (after the pig killing) they used fresh sausages. As veal was more expensive than pork, it was only used for special occasions. Actually, most pasta dishes were made without any meat (No pork or veal or anything else for that matter). Meat was a delicacy reserved for feast days etc. However, when Southern Italians immigrated to North America in the 1950s, they immediately started to include meat with their pasta -- either it was served after the pasta dish as a separate course, or it was incorporated into the dish itself. By the end of the 1960s most of the traditional pasta recipes had changed quite dramatically, but everyone was O.K. with it (except perhaps for the occasional Italian vegetarian).... Photo: by the contributor.

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