Phyllis’ Eggplant Parmigiana

We “discovered” eggplant a few years ago and love the different and delicious ways  countries around the Mediterranean prepare it. There are so many ways to cook eggplant, from this vegetarian parmigiana to baba ganouj to stuffed eggplants. The photo shown with the recipe was taken in Greve in Chianti and according to my husband, is the best parmigiana I ever made! It was stiff competition that night to the Florentine steak cooked over a wood fire!  It seems a perfect dish for a summer or fall dinner!

Makes 8 Servings (approximately)

3 large eggplants (preferably longer shaped rather than rounder ones as they have less seeds)
1 cup each Mozzarella, Provolone or Fontina cheese (or more to your taste)
Marinara sauce (see below)
Bechamel Sauce (see below)

Prepare The Eggplants:
Slice the eggplants, crosswise,  into 1/3” thick slices. Layer them in a large colander sprinkling generously with either kosher or sea salt between the layers. Place the colander over a bowl and let the eggplant stand for 1 hour. (This will draw out any bitterness from the eggplants). Rinse the eggplant slices well with cold water. Place on a large towel & blot dry. Turn on the broiler and place the oven rack on the top level. Brush the eggplant slices with EVO, then turning them over, place onto an oiled, rimmed baking sheet. Brush the second side of the eggplant slices with more EVO. Place 1 pan at a time under the broiler for about 5 – 6 minutes, until slightly golden brown, remove pan from oven & turn the slices over. Return the eggplant to the oven & broil for about 4 – 5 minutes until slightly golden brown; remove pan from the oven & let eggplant cool. (I have been known to do this step the day before)

Marinara Sauce:

1 (28 oz.) tin Italian plum tomatoes, diced
3 Tbsp. EVO
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. each chopped fresh basil, oregano & flat-leaf parsley

In a large skillet heat the EVO over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the garlic, stirring until it is fragrant but has not taken on any colour. Add the tomatoes, reduce heat a bit & simmer until thickened, approximately 20 minutes. Add the fresh herbs, simmer for 5 minutes then remove from the heat. (I usually  make the sauce the day before).

Microwave Bechamel Sauce:

2 cups 2% or homogenized milk
2 oz. unsalted butter (4 Tbsp.)
3 Tbsp. unbleached flour
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp. salt & 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

In the microwave, melt the butter in a large bowl or 8 cup glass measuring cup, covered with a piece of wax paper, on medium heat until melted. Whisk in the flour. Microwave for 1 minute on medium heat; remove from microwave & slowly whisk in the milk. Add the bay leaf & nutmeg. Microwave the mixture, in 1 minute intervals, whisking after each minute, until the mixture thickens & comes to a slight boil. Remove from the microwave, add the salt & pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Assemble The Parmigiana:

In the bottom of an greased  13 x 9” glass or ceramic baking dish, spread  approximately 1 cup of the marinara sauce. It will not totally cover the bottom of the pan. Using 1/3rd of the eggplant slices, place a layer on top of the sauce. Top with half the remaining marinara sauce, 1/3rd of the béchamel sauce & 1/3rd of the grated cheeses, Top with another layer of eggplant slices, the remaining marinara sauce, béchamel sauce & cheeses. Place in the oven, uncovered for between 30 & 45 minutes, or until bubbling. Remove from the oven & let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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