To kick off 2020 with Our MS Series Brick Oven and National Baking Month, we decided to dedicate a new series of posts – complete with recipes and videos- to our blog.  Called “#CookingVerstality”, these posts highlight ways to use our ovens to do much more than bake pizza. Although Marra Forni ovens are great to produce the best pizzas possible, we are constantly discovering other great ways to use them as well!   All year long, we’ll be sharing iconic recipes and additional ways to get the most out of our ovens with you.

Eggplant parmigiana is one of the great Italian classic dishes loved the whole world over. In Italy itself, many regions claim it as their own – and rightfully so! Historically speaking, the recipe’s main ingredients;  the eggplant, the tomato, and the mozzarella were ingredients hailing from three different continents. Sicilians got eggplant from Arab traders in the 9th century. Tomatoes, on the other hand, did not arrive in Italy until 1548 from the Americas, while Mozzarella was already a long-standing tradition in Napoli.

Many people believe that Eggplant Parmigiana hails from Emilia-Romagna, where authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano comes from. Evidence of the recipe being prepared in Napoli, Calabria, and Sicily, however, proves that the ubiquitous dish was being made in the south much earlier, with cheese very similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano. In the Southern regions, that type of cheese made by Cistercian monks. Legend has it that it was these monks who first prepared what we know as Eggplant Parmigiano today. The first official record of the recipe can be found in Vincenzo Corrado’s  (a Puglian cook to aristocratic families), 1733 book Il Cuoco Galante.

Although it’s a vegetarian recipe, Eggplant Parmigiana is satisfying and savory enough to make even the most avid of meat lovers rejoice while eating it.  Follow the steps of our Culinary Director Felice Colucci (who like Vincenzo Corrado also hails from Puglia)  to make the best version possible. Chef Felice recommends using the Marra Forni MS Series Oven for this recipe. “It’s our star and we try to show its potential as much as we can,” he says!

Eggplant Parmigiano/Melanzane alla parmigiana

Note that the eggplant needs to be salted and weighed down before preparation in this recipe. The tomato sauce can be made a day or two ahead. The dish can also be baked a day ahead and reheated before serving.

Ingredients For the eggplant:

  • 2 pounds eggplant, trimmed and sliced into 1/5-inch thick slices    
  • 5 teaspoons coarse salt   
  • 1 pound flour
  • Sunflower oil, for frying

Ingredients for the tomato sauce:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic                              
  • 3 pounds San Marzano tomatoes, hand crushed or placed in a food mill for a smooth sauce
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped and divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste                                     
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste                       

To finish:

  • 6 ounces freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
  • 1 ½ pound Fior di latte or mozzarella

Preparation: To make the eggplant With MS Series Brick Oven

  • Place eggplant in a colander, a layer at a time, sprinkling each generously with salt.
  • Place a plate on the top of the eggplant to weigh them down.
  • Let the eggplant sit for 30 minutes to release the juices (this helps eggplant to stay crispy while frying and prevents them from being bitter).
  • Rinse the eggplant slices with water and dry them with a paper towel.
  • Place the flour on a plate. Dust each slice of eggplant with the flour and set it aside on another plate.
  • Pour the oil (sunflower oil is recommended, has a higher smoking point than other oils) into a large frypan or pot until it comes up to at least an inch on the sides. Heat to 370F degrees.
  • Once the oil is to temperature, place an even layer of eggplant into the pan, without crowding it, and fry until golden color.
  • Remove from the oil and place the eggplant slices on a paper towel-lined plate to remove the excess oil. Repeat until all eggplant is fried.

To make the tomato sauce:

  • Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Add the garlic cloves, fry until lightly golden, and remove them.
  • Add the tomatoes and stir. Cover, and allow to cook for 10 minutes.
  • Lower the flame to low, add basil and let the tomatoes simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  • After the hour has passed, stir the sauce and taste it. Add salt and black pepper to taste, if desired.

To assemble:

  • Cut the Fior di latte cheese into rounds.
  • Put a ladle full of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 12×12-inch (or another size if desired) cast iron pan.
  • Add a layer of the fried eggplant to the top of the sauce. Cover with a  generous amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano and fior di latte cheese as well as a few basil leaves.
  • Repeat layering the eggplant, sauce, cheese, and basil until eggplant is used up.
  • Add an additional layer of sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano to the top layer.
  • Heat up the MS Series Brick oven at 600 F.
  • Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake it in a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes.
  • Take the aluminum foil off and turn on the MS Series Brick Oven on the broil function.
  • Add the pan back to the MS Series Brick oven and broil to make a delicious crust on top!
  • In 30 minutes eggplant parmigiana is ready!
  • Let the parmigiana rest for about 15 minutes before eating it (if you resist) to avoid watery results.!

Interested in a variation on this recipe? Our friends Chef Matteo and Antonio at Stellina Pizzeria finish off their Eggplant Parmigiana in one of our MS Series Brick ovens as well! They serve theirs by wrapping it in their signature pizza dough and baking it until puffy in golden. This “sandwich” known as the “Cuzzitiello” is one of their best sellers! Tune Into our Blog for Other News For Marraforni Brick Oven Cooking Versatility.

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