Melanzane Alla Parmigiana | Authentic Italian Recipe

Melanzane alla Parmigiana dish is packed with Mediterranean flavors and is the perfect prep meal for busy days. Learn how to make the authentic recipe for this ultimate comfort food that every Italian loves.

A baking dish with Melanzane alla Parmigiana with one portion removed.

What Is Melanzane alla Parmigiana?

Melanzane alla Parmigiana is a traditional Italian dish made of fried eggplant slices, tomato sauce, Parmigiano, and mozzarella cheese.

The dish is assembled in layers and then baked to allow the eggplant to absorb the sauce and the cheese to melt, resulting in a tasty meal so rich and full of flavor.

The origin of eggplant parmigiana is unknown since all Italian regions from south to north claim to be the ones that invented this recipe. Because of this, some variations are also available.

In Sicily for example is common to find this dish using Caciocavallo cheese instead of parmigiano, while in Naples mozzarella di bufala is the favorite cheese to make the recipe.

Also, some recipes ask to bread the eggplant slices before frying, which turns into a richer and more fulfilling meal.

Even though there are some theories about the name of this dish coming from the cheese name (parmigiano), Italians have figured out and claim that parmigiana name comes from the Sicilian dialect parmiciana a word that means “persiane” (shutter windows) which happens to resemble the layers of sliced vegetables.

That’s why parmigiana is not a name exclusively for the eggplant dish, instead, there are also parmigiana di zucchini and parmigiana di patate. Made with zucchini and potatoes respectively.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana in a baking dish. Seen from above.

The Ingredients Needed

  • EGGPLANT: Use Italian eggplant, the one with the purple-dark skin and long format.
  • TOMATO SAUCE: Passata is what I used in this recipe, but a good quality plain tomato sauce is also recommended.
  • ONION: You will need a bot of onion to give some texture to the sauce and to balance the acidity in the tomato sauce. You can use any type of onion you want.
  • MOZZARELLA: Use fresh mozzarella, the one that comes packed in whey.
  • PARMIGIANO: A good Parmigiano cheese or if possible, use Caciocavallo cheese.
  • OIL: Extra virgin olive oil or mild olive oil would be enough.
  • BASIL: For freshness, add as much as you want.
  • SEASONINGS: Garlic, black pepper, and salt.

Related: What are the different eggplant varieties? By The Kitchn.

How To Make Melanzane Alla Parmigiana

Cut the mozzarella cheese into small cubes. Place it in a colander and let it drain while continuing with the preparation of the recipe.

Slice eggplants about 1/4″ (1.2cm) thick and place them in layers into a colander inside a bowl sprinkling with salt each layer. Allow resting for 30 minutes.

Eggplant slices on a colander

While the eggplant is resting, make the tomato sauce.

Heat 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes or until the onion is softened and translucent.

Add the tomato passata and fresh basil leaves, then season with salt and pepper. Cover and let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Make sure the sauce doesn’t reduce too much, if necessary, add a little bit of water.

Tomato sauce for Melanzane alla Parmigiana simmering on a saucepan.

Rinse the eggplant slices under cold water to remove the salt and pat them dry with a kitchen towel or paper.

Heat a good glug of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Fry the eggplant slices in a single layer until slightly browned.

Frying eggplant slices on a pan.

As eggplant slices come out of the oil, place them on a plate lined with kitchen paper towels to remove excess oil.

Assemble the parmigiana di melanzane:

Spread two tablespoons of tomato sauce on the bottom of a baking dish, then add one layer of fried eggplant.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana being prepared on a baking dish.

Sprinkle with parmigiano then add mozzarella cubes. Add more sauce, then make more layers of eggplant > parmigiano > mozzarella until all ingredients are gone.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana being prepared on a baking dish.

Heat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Cover loosely the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the foil and keep baking for another 15 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbling on top.

Let the Parmigiana set from 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

Melanzane alla Parmigiana just taken out of the oven with the bubbling cheese on top.

Recipe Notes

  • If you use fresh mozzarella to make eggplant parmigiana, is important to let it drain its liquid for a few minutes. Otherwise, it will release it when baking and you’ll end with a soupy dish, instead of the firm, well-placed layers of vegetables and cheese.
  • After baked, allow the dish to rest for at least 20 minutes, so it would be easier to cut and serve.
  • In some southern versions, the slices of eggplant are dredged in flour or bread crumbs before frying.
  • For a richer version of this dish, add between layers some thin slices of mortadella.

How To Serve

Melanzane alla Parmigiana pairs well with crusty bread and is usually served at room temperature. Is a dish that contains everything for a fulfilling meal on its own or paired with a green salad.

My husband loves eggplant parmigiana, so much that he always asks me to do a lot more so he can eat it for 2-3 days straight. His favorite way of eating leftovers is in a panino (sandwich).

Good ciabatta bread or homemade focaccia is all he needs. The sauce will soak the bread and…mamma mia!

How To Store And Reheat

Melanzane alla Parmigiana can be stored for up to 3 days in the refrigerator in airtight containers.

You can also prepare this dish in advance and store it in the fridge for 2-3 days until you are ready to bake it.

You can also freeze it for up to 3 months packed in a freeze-proof container.

For reheating, allow thawing overnight if the dish was frozen, then reheat in a preheated oven at 360°F/190°C. Make sure you cover the dish so it won’t lose moisture.

More Italian Eggplant Dishes

parmigiana de berenjenas

Melanzane alla Parmigiana

author Maricruz
4
Melanzane alla parmigiana is an Italian dish made with fried eggplants, tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmigiano cheese. The ultimate comfort food that every italian loves.
prep 30 minutes
cook 1 hour
reposo 2 hours 30 minutes
total 4 hours

Equipment

  • a 8"x12" (20×30 cm) baking dish

Ingredients 

  • 2 ½ lb Italian eggplant
  • 2 ½ cups tomato passata (or plain tomato sauce)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 garlic clove (skin on and slightly smashed)
  • 1 lb mozzarella cheese
  • 1 ½ cup Parmigiano or Caciocavallo cheese (grated)
  • Olive oil
  • Basil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions
 

  • Cut the mozzarella cheese into small cubes.
  • Place it into a colander and let it drain while continuing with the preparation of the recipe.
  • Slice eggplants about ¼" (1.2 cm) thick and place them in layers into a colander inside a bowl.
  • Sprinkle with salt between layers and allow resting for 30 minutes.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add onion and garlic.
  • Sauté until the onion softens and is slightly translucent.
  • Add the tomato sauce and some basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper, then let it simmer for 15 minutes. Set aside.
  • Rinse the eggplant slices under cold water to remove the salt and pat them dry with a kitchen towel or paper.
  • Heat about 1-inch olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
  • Working in batches, fry all slices of eggplant on both sides until slightly golden.
  • Place them on a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil.

Assemble parmigiana

  • Spread two tablespoons of tomato sauce on the bottom of a baking dish, then add one layer of fried eggplant.
  • Sprinkle with parmigiano, add mozzarella cubes, and a bit more sauce.
  • Repeat the layers of eggplant > parmigiano > mozzarella, until all ingredients are gone.
  • Heat the oven to 375°F/190°C.
  • Cover the baking dish loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and keep baking for another 15 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbling on top.
  • Let the parmigiana set for 20-30 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • If you use fresh mozzarella is important to let it drain its liquid for a few minutes. Otherwise, it will release it when baking it and you’ll end with a soupy dish.
  • In some southern versions, the slices of eggplant are dredged in flour or bread crumbs before frying.
  • You can prepare this dish in advance and store it in the fridge until you are ready to bake it.
  • For a richer version of this dish, add between layers some thin slices of mortadella.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 628kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 21g | Cholesterol: 115mg | Sodium: 1362mg | Potassium: 1496mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 1922IU | Vitamin C: 25mg | Calcium: 1077mg | Iron: 4mg
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2 Comments

  1. The Italian-American version is even better, chicken parm, but Italians reject it cuz it implicitly acknowledges that Italian Americans could afford chicken whereas Italians could only use the local ingredient that was cheap and plentiful… Eggplant. It’s shame that causes pride to get in the way.