Traditional Eggplant Parmigiana from Southern Italy
When you travel to Naples, in southern Italy, one of the dishes that you absolutely have to try is eggplant Parmigiana. This traditional preparation is essentially a rich vegetable lasagna that uses eggplant slices in place of pasta and combines them with mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and basil leaves. Basically, all the quintessential ingredients of classical Italian cuisine.
In Naples, eggplant Parmigiana is a very beloved dish by locals and tourists alike, so much so that you can find it in literally every restaurant of the city. However, the original version of the dish calls for deep-fried eggplants and, sometimes, even a few slices of cooked ham, so it’s definitely not a light meal.
For this reason, I want to share with you a very popular take on the classical Parmigiana, that uses grilled eggplants instead of fried ones. In this way, the dish retains all its wonderful hearty flavors without becoming too heavy and, on the contrary, the mild smokiness of the grilled eggplants adds an exciting new dimension.
As it is a healthier and completely vegetarian version of the original, this grilled eggplant parmigiana recipe is especially popular among home cooks. Moreover, it’s a real comfort food, easy to make and extremely satisfying to eat. I especially like to prepare it at the end of the summer, when the vegetables are at their best.
Another plus of this recipe is that it’s extremely customizable. For instance, you could use zucchini or mixed vegetables instead of the eggplant and you will still get a very flavorful and savory meal. Finally, I usually like to prepare my tomato sauce from scratch as I think it tastes better. That said, if you want to make this an even quicker recipe, you can definitely use store-bought marinara sauce, just make sure it has no added sugar in it.
Some of our other favorite grilled vegetable recipes:
Cut eggplants into 1/3-inch thick slices and grill them on medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until slightly charred on each side.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Mince onion and cook it in olive oil for a few minutes. When it turns golden in color, add tomato purée, salt, and pepper. Simmer on low heat for at least 10 minutes, but the longer the better. If you want, you can skip this step and use store-bought marinara sauce.
Cover the bottom of a 9x9-inch baking pan with a couple tablespoons of tomato sauce.
It’s time to compose the Parmigiana. Layer the different components following this order: grilled eggplant slices, tomato sauce, basil leaves, diced mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. You should have enough ingredients to make around 5 layers.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until bubbling and slightly golden.
Once ready, let it stand for 10 minutes before serving. If you want, you can garnish with some more basil leaves.
Giorgia was born in a small town on the Italian Riviera, half the way between Genova and the Cinque Terre, just a few miles away from where pesto was invented. She has a background in psychology and neuroscience and is now completing her training to become a licensed psychologist while working as a web writer. As most of the time happens in Italy, it was her lovely grandmother that taught her how to cook and enjoy every bite of simple and genuine food. Giorgia loves preparing meals for family and friends and her specialty are authentic Sicilian and Ligurian dishes. Other than cooking, her greatest passions are traveling and trekking. Her biggest dream is to be able to see (and taste!) as much of the word as possible.