5eggplant (1.8kg), sliced lengthways 6mm thickFor shallow frying:olive oilFor dusting:seasoned plain flour200 gmfinely grated parmesan, plus extra for dusting2 cups (loosely packed)basil leaves, stalks reserved for sugo, plus extra leaves to serveTo serve:bitter leaf saladSugo60 ml (¼ cup)extra-virgin olive oil1onion, diced6garlic cloves, coarsely chopped600 gmvine-ripened tomatoes400 gmcanned chopped tomatoes2 tbspcoarsely chopped oregano
Place eggplant in a large bowl, add 2 tsp fine sea salt, toss to coat and set aside for liquid to drain (20 minutes).
For sugo, heat oil in a frying pan over high heat, add onion and stir occasionally until starting to caramelise (3-5 minutes), then add garlic and stir until caramelised (1-2 minutes). Add fresh and canned tomato, oregano and reserved basil stalks, bring to the simmer, reduce heat to medium and stir occasionally until tender and thick (30-40 minutes). Remove stalks (discard), transfer to a blender, season to taste and blend until smooth.
Heat olive oil to 3mm deep in a frying pan, dust eggplant slices with seasoned flour, shake off excess, then fry in batches, adding more oil as necessary, until golden (2-4 minutes). Drain on absorbent paper.
Preheat oven to 180C. Spoon a little sugo into a 15cm x 25cm baking dish, top with a layer of eggplant, scatter with parmesan and basil, then repeat until all ingredients are used, finishing with a layer of sugo. Scatter with extra parmesan, bake until golden and bubbling (20-30 minutes), scatter with extra basil and serve with a bitter leaf salad.
This recipe is from the April 2012 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.
There's a little labour involved in frying the eggplant slices before layering them, but the result is worth it. The whole dish can be prepared ahead of time and popped into the oven at the last minute.