In my first cookbook, Ciao Italia, there is not one recipe for eggplant alla Parmigiana. The reason was that I thought everyone knew how to make it. It was not until I did a segment on a version of eggplant alla Parmigiana that I realized I had been doing an injustice to my readers.
This recipe was made on the series by the former mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, Buddy Cianci. Buddy uses his great Aunt Anna's recipe, which creates a very light-tasting, non-greasy eggplant that is even good served cold between slices of coarse bread as a wonderful sandwich.
There is great debate among cooks as to whether to fry the eggplant in olive oil or vegetable oil. I prefer vegetable oil, which produces a lighter-tasting dish. In Sicily the Parmesan cheese is replaced by Cacciocavallo cheese, and pine nuts and raisins are added to the layers.
1/2 cup King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Grinding of black pepper
2 medium-size eggplants, stemmed, peeled, and cut into thin slices
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup canola or peanut oil
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Place the flour, salt, and pepper in a heavy-duty paper bag. Close the bag and shake the ingredients to blend them. Add the eggplant slices a few at a time to the bag, then close the bag and shake to coat the slices. Transfer the slices to a dish.
Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9 x 12-inch casserole dish and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. While it is heating, coat the slices of eggplant in the beaten egg on both sides. Fry the slices in the oil until they are golden brown on each side. As they brown, transfer them to a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
Place a layer of the slices in the baking dish, slightly overlapping them. Spoon on a thin layer of tomato sauce and one-third of the grated cheese. Continue making layers until all the eggplant is used. Finish off the top layer with tomato sauce.
Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the dish and allow it to sit for 15 minutes before cutting it. Serve hot.
Note: This is even better made a day ahead of time. Cut it when cold for neat, even pieces.
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