Neither French nor American but still delicious and full of flavors. My own personal twist is not to use breadcrumbs and flour for the breading but to use almond meal flour with ground almonds and walnuts. Gluten intolerant friends rejoice! And the light almond taste around the eggplants makes the whole dish taste a bit different than a regular eggplant parmigiana.
For this dish, you’ll need a marinara sauce as well as a pancetta mixture to layer in the dish. You can make it all vegetarian without the pancetta too.
Ingredients marinara sauce:
about 2 lbs (1 kg) of tomatoes
fresh chopped basil leaves
salt and pepper
Bring 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Cook the onion with 3 garlic cloves for 10 min. Add the chopped – almost puréed – tomatoes, a sprinkle of red-pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cover. Simmer for 45 minutes until thick. Remove from the heat and add the herbs. I personally like lots of basil and oregano with the sauce so I tend to add more than enough.
Ingredients pancetta mix:
0.5 lb (250 g) of diced pancetta
Bring 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a boil in a pan and thrown in the pancetta to cook. Add pepper – salt shouldn’t be needed because the pancetta is already salty. Chop up the fresh rosemary while the pancetta is cooking. Stir often and cook until darker but not crispy (8-10 min). Add the rosemary at the end and stir.
Ingredients eggplant parmigiana:
already prepared marinara sauce
already prepared pancetta mix
1 cup (170 g) of almonds
1 cup (120 g) of walnuts
1.5 cup (270 g) of Pecorino Romano
1 cup (170 g) of almond meal flour
4 or 5 eggs lightly beaten
2 eggplants – sliced into medium-thick rounds
3 cups (390 g) of grated mozzarella
salt and pepper
Ground the almonds and walnuts to get about 2 cups (200 g) of bread crumb replacement. Mix with 1/2 cup (50 g) of Pecorino Romano, some salt and pepper. Leave aside in one bowl. Beat the eggs in a different bowl. Place the almond meal in a third bowl. To bread the eggplant slices, cover the rounds in almond flour, dip them in the eggs and coat with the almond-walnut crumbs. The ground nuts should not have too many big pieces in them for an easier coating. Let them stand for 15-20 minutes.
Prepare some vegetable or canola oil in a pan and heat. In batches of 5 or 6, fry the eggplant slices – 2 minutes per side should be enough. Leave aside on paper towel to remove the excess oil.
Preheat the over to 375 °F (190 °C). To assemble the final dish (a 9 x 13 in or 23 x 33 cm baking dish), spread some butter with your fingers at the bottom of the dish. Layer the dish as such: marinara sauce first, a layer of eggplant, a layer of marinara sauce, a layer of pancetta, sprinkle with Pecorino Romano and mozzarella. Repeat until you are out of sauce, pancetta, eggplant and cheese. Cover with foil.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5-8 minutes. Let the dish stand for 10 minutes before serving.