There are two types of Neapolitan dishes that deceptively claim a paternity not their due: genovese or Genoan sauce, foreign to Genoa, and Parmesan preparations, sublime glories of summer unknown in Parma. “Parmesan” implies eggplants, but artichoke or zucchini Parmesan is certainly acceptable. This is by no means a quick dish; it requires though and forbids distraction, but, in compensation, it promotes better human relations, capable as it is of opening heart at a moment of inexpressible delight.
4 lbs. eggplants (Italian if available) – 1 lbs. mozzarella – 2 cups grated Parmesan – basil – salt – sugar – vegetable oil for frying
For the tomato sauce: olive oil -1 clove garlic – 2tbsp. sultana raisins – onion – carrot – 1 celery rib – parsley – 1/2 cup white wine – 3 lbs. ripe tomatoes.
Begin by preparing a good tomato sauce or mock ragout: sautè the garlic in olive oil, remove the garlic after it has flavored the oil, replace it with the onion, a carrot, and a celery rib – all chopped very small – and a small bunch of parsley. When the vegetables are soft and well cooked add the sultanas and the white wine. After the latter has evaporated, add the tomatoes, season with salt, and cook for about half an hour over low heat.
Then cut the eggplants into long slice and put them to soak in a large bowl filled with salted water so that they lose their bitter taste. After 1 hour remove and squeeze them to eliminate the dark liquid they will exude, dry them with a cloth, return them to their original shape, and fry them in plenty of vegetable oil. Set aside to drain on paper towels.
Dice the mozzarella and get some good, fragrant basil. Proceed to the construction of the parmesan, which should take place as follows: spoon some tomato sauce into a baking-pan, then begin to arrange the eggplant slices in layers, season them with a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar, add plenty of mozzarella, even more Parmesan cheese, and small piece of basil leaf. Then cover with more Parmesan cheese, and small pieces of basil leaf. Then cover with more spoonfuls of tomato sauce and begin again in the same order, completing the operation with a final layer of eggplant slices topped, of course, with grated Parmesan and a little tomato sauce.
Bake this marvel in an oven at 350 F for about half an hour, and serve it hot or lukewarm.
This is a wonderful recipe from the book “Tastes of Southern Italy” by Rita and Mariano Pane, our villa owner’s partner.