icon Melanzane alla Parmigiana

Melanzane alla Parmigiana or Parmigiana di melanzane (Eggplant Parmesan) is a wonderfully complex, versatile and satisfying comfort food. It also happens to be vegetarian. The dish comes from southern Italy from the Campania region, and is also known as Parmigiana di Melanzane. Both names imply a connection with the city of Parma in the north of Italy, but Parma has nothing to do with this dish. The connection is Parmigiano cheese, which comes from the region of Emilia-Romagna around Parma and is a key element of this recipe. The remaining ingredients are quintessentially southern Italian.

The dish is built by alternating layers of eggplant slides, tomato sauce, and cheeses. This makes it somewhat similar to Moussaka and Lasagne.

Three different schools of thought exist on how to deep-fry the eggplant: only flour-coated, coated in flour and egg, or breaded in flour, egg and crumbs (like a Wiener Schnitzel). Authentic Italian recipes say to coat the slices only by dredging them through the flour. On the other hand, some Italian-American cooks claim that unbreaded eggplant is like a sponge and the dish will get very greasy. Flour-coated or flour-and-egg-coated eggplant will make a lighter tasting dish, while a Wienerschnitzel-style breaded eggplant will make the dish pleasantly crunchy. Being from New Orleans, we would recommend adding some Zatarain's seasoning if going with with breaded eggplant slices.

There are several descendants to this dish that developed in Italian-American cuisine. Veal Parmigiana and Chicken Parmigiana evolved by replacing the eggplant in Parmigiana di melanzane with breaded schnitzels of chicken or veal. Americans consider these two recipes to be Italian, but Italians would consider them completely American. Veal Parmigiana is made by baking a layered combination of pan-fried breaded escalope of veal, topped with mozzarella, tomato sauce and parmesan.

The recipe for Melanzane alla Parmigiana we show here was published by Eleonora Baldwin. We like it because it represents a very nice example of the Italian original.


  • 4 medium eggplants
  • Flour for dusting the eggplant
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • 2 cups (500 ml) tomato purée
  • Extra virgin olive oil for the tomato sauce
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped or thinly sliced
  • Handful of basil leaves
  • 150 g buffalo mozzarella, roughly chopped
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 100 g Parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated


  1. Begin by washing the eggplants and slicing them into 1/4-inch thick slices. Most cooks slice the eggplant into circular slices, but there are some who slice it longitudinally, making the eggplant slices look a bit like lasagne.
  2. Now for the second step: sweating the eggplant. Sprinkle the slices with coarse salt on both sides, arrange in a colander, and place a weighted plate on top. Allow to sweat in the sink for about 30 minutes. Rinse all slices and dry on paper towels.
  3. Now for deep-frying the eggplant. An authentic Italian recipe directs the following. Place the flour into a bowl and coat the slices by dredging them through the flour. Shake off the excess flour from each slice. Heat the oil in a large pan, and deep-fry the slices until gold and crisp. Work in batches. Place the fried slices on fresh paper towels and dry again. Season lightly with salt.
  4. Prepare the tomato sauce. Heat a few tablespoons of the olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic and sauté until golden. Add the tomato purée, a cup of water, and the basil leaves. Season with a pinch of salt and cook for about ten minutes.
  5. Assemble the dish. Pull out your lasagna baking dish (about 30 x 20 cm) and spread a few tablespoons of tomato sauce on the bottom. Much like when assembling lasagne, arrange a layer of fried aubergines, pour over 1/3 of the beaten eggs, sprinkle with 1/3 mozzarella and a generous layer of grated Parmigiano, and spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce on top. Make 4 layers in this manner. Top with tomato sauce, a few pieces of mozzarella and a lot of Parmigiano.
  6. Bake in a 350 F oven (180 C) for about 35 minutes, until golden brown on the top. Serve warm.

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Last updated: March 27, 2017