There are many versions of this dish throughout southern Italy. Some include a meat sauce, others slip hard-cooked eggs between the layers and still others call for dipping the eggplant slices in beaten egg and breadcrumbs before frying. This recipe is from Campania, where it is typically served as an antipasto, as a side dish or even cold as a sandwich filling. Make sure the oil is fully heated before you add the eggplant, or the slices will absorb too much oil.
- 2 eggplants, about 1 lb. each
- Sea salt, to taste
- Olive oil for frying
- 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce, purchased or homemade
- 1 lb. fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices
- 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Trim the eggplants, then cut crosswise into slices 1/4 inch thick. Layer the slices in a colander set over a plate, sprinkling each layer with salt, and let stand for 30 minutes to drain. Rinse the eggplant slices quickly under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.
Preheat an oven to 350°F. Have ready a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Line a large platter or tray with paper towels and set it next to the stove.
Pour olive oil to a depth of about 1/2 inch into a large, heavy fry pan and place over high heat until hot. Working in batches, add the eggplant slices in a single layer, being careful not to crowd the pan. Fry, turning once, until nicely browned on both sides, about 10 minutes total. Using tongs, transfer the slices to the prepared platter to drain. Fry the remaining slices in the same way, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
Spread a thin layer of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the sauce with a layer of the eggplant slices, overlapping them slightly and using about a third of the slices. Top with a third of the mozzarella, a third of the sauce and a third of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat the layering two more times, ending with the grated cheese.
Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).