Melanzane Parmigiana – a different twist using Fish
This is that classic layered aubergine (melanzane) dish, with a cooked down tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmigiana cheese. I’ve added Lucky Star pilchards and basil blended until smooth to the layers too.
These days aubergine do not have to be salted to remove any bitterness, as the bitterness has almost been bred out of them. They do however, improve in flavour if you salt them and let them sit in a colander for a bit. Many recipe trials have been done on the best method to prepare the aubergine for this dish. Some insist on deep frying, others on blanching. I did a combination of blanching half and grilling the other half in the oven for this recipe. My favourite method would be to bake or grill them in the oven: the result is soft and tender without the heavy grease of deep frying. This is the method I suggest.
For the tomato sauce:
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
2 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t sugar
salt, to taste
For the filling
4 medium aubergine, sliced lengthwise, 0.5 cm thickness
60 ml olive oil, plus extra
3/4 cup grated Parmigiana
400 g fresh mozzarella
1 tin Lucky Star pilchards, drained
10 basil leaves, washed
6 T bread crumbs
1. Prepare the sauce by frying the onions with the bay leaf in oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When the onions become soft and translucent add the garlic. Fry for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, sugar and salt. Cook down on low heat for about 35 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove bay leaf and blend until smooth with a handheld stick blender.
2. While the sauce is cooking, prepare the aubergines. Slice and salt them and add them to a colander for 15 minutes. Then pat dry and lay over a large greased baking tray. Drizzle over a generous quantity of olive oil and bake in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Flip the slices over and cook for another 5-8 minutes or until tender.
3. Blend the drained pilchards and the basil with a handheld blender until smooth. Slice the mozzarella balls into 0.5 cm slices or thinner and set aside.
4. Grease a medium sized oven-proof dish and start with a thin layer of tomato sauce, followed by a single layer of aubergine, fish puree, Parmigiana, mozzarella and bread crumbs. Repeat and end with a layer of sauce and breadcrumbs.
5. Bake for 40 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Turn heat up to 250 degrees Celsius and allow to brown for 5 minutes, keeping a close eye.
*Note over temperatures and settings vary, please use your discretion*
Disclaimer: This recipe forms part of a series I am developing for Lucky Star and I will be remunerated for it.