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Melanzane Parmigiana

Posted by: The Chiappas | 08.08.13

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Melanzane Parmigiana is an entirely vegetarian dish, but all the men in our family love it as it combines three layers of fantastic flavours (creamy mozzarella, oozy tomato sauce and tasta aubergines) which all fuse together when cooked.  There is another big debate in Italy about where this dish comes from – is it the north (Parma, our region) or the south?!  What do you think opinion is in our household ;-)


1kg aubergine, sliced thinly lengthways

fine salt

5 tablespoons olive oil

400g freshly grated mozzarella cheese

100g freshly grated Parmesan cheese


For the tomato sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves of gralic, peeled

fine salt and freshly ground black pepper

optional: 1⁄2 a wine glass of red or white wine

2 x 400g tins good-quality chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato purée
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 organic vegetable stock cube

Place a layer of aubergine slices on a plate. Sprinkle with salt and cover with kitchen paper. Continue with another layer on top until you have used up all the aubergine slices, finishing with kitchen paper. Weigh the aubergines down using something heavy, like a saucepan filled with water, and leave for 30 minutes so that the aubergine can release its bitter juices.

While the aubergines are realeasing their bitter juices make the tomato sauce.  Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion for about 4 minutes, until soft and translucent.  Add the garlic to the onion and cook for 30 seconds; be careful not to let it burn. Pour in the wine, if using, and keep stirring for 2 minutes. The aim is to burn off the alcohol, leaving just a hint of the lovely wine flavour.

Stir in the tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar, cayenne pepper and stock cube. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.  Add salt and pepper to season to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 ̊C/350 ̊F/gas 4.

Brush each aubergine slice with a little oil and heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the aubergine, a few slices at a time, until cooked through and golden on both sides. Add a little more oil to the pan if needed. Place the aubergine on some kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.

Cover the bottom of a 30cm x 20cm baking dish with 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Top with a layer of aubergine and lightly spread with 4 tablespoons of sauce. Sprinkle generously with mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat these layers (aubergine, sauce, mozaralla, and Parmesan) until you have used all the aubergine, finishing with a layer of sauce and Parmesan (no mozzarella).

Cook in the oven for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.


TIP: To make this dish quicker to assemble, we like to prepare our aubergines and fry them the day before as well as the tomato sauce, so that when it comes to cook the dish, all you have to do is layer it up


This recipe will be found in our book “Simply Italain, At Home with the Chiappa sisters” being published in 2014 by Penguin: Micheal Joseph.  To pre order a copy NOW click here.


43 thoughts on “Melanzane Parmigiana

  1. jacqui bayley says:

    this is beautiful my gran used to make this xxx

  2. Su O'Brien says:

    Please can you make it clear that this dish is NOT vegetarian if you use Parmigiano Reggiano cheese?

    There are good vegetarian alternatives to Parmesan available in the supermarkets – but traditional Parmesan is ALWAYS made with animal rennet (enzyme from cow’s stomach) and is therefore never acceptable for a vegetarian diet.

  3. Hi Su, you should be able to use vegetarian parmesan as a good substitute if you can’t use normal parmesan. Hope this helps.

  4. Don Sutherland says:

    My wife and I sampled this in Venice airport on our way home after a bril holiday and thought it fabulous. As a “foodie” I have been searching for a recipe for it for ages but the ones I found never seemed quite right. This one does and delighted to see it on the show. Guess what I am cooking tomorrow night??

  5. Dave baker says:

    Mines in the oven cant wait yo try it

    Great tv show

  6. Patricia Anderson says:

    Disappointed that in the list of ingredients there is no mention of the basil leaves which were added when the recipe was given on the t.v. show. This is a bit of a bugbear of mine as it happens quite often on tv shows, the chefs appear to do or add things which don’t then appear in the written recipes.

  7. Samantha says:

    Mine has come out the oven, cant wait to taste it, smells lovely x

  8. Claire Perry says:

    Watched the Top 10 Italian Dishes last night and was so inspired to cook them all! Tonight is this lovely dish, which I have never tasted before! Can’t wait! Looking forward to the new book too!

  9. Nia Roberts says:

    Mmmmmm! Just got back from 2 delicious weeks in Le Marche and totally inspired to get down to some proper (Welsh) Italian cooking. Made pizza last night (yummy – you’re right about the Type 00 Flour and the olive oil; makes the dough much easier to roll out thin) and the Melanzane Parmigiana tonight – absolutely delicious! I had some salt-and-olive-oil marinated onions left which hadn’t been used up on last night’s pizza topping & used these to make a side salad with some multicoloured tomatoes & balsamic vinegar.

    But the best bit was that while I was at work my 16-year old daughter Bethan made the Chocolate Gelato ai noccioli (no Baci; Llandudno is a Baci-free zone) and it was lush in the extreme.

    Grazie Mille / Diolch o galon. Perfetto!


  10. Karen McKinlay says:

    My husband and I had this superb dish for dinner this evening. He is a very committed meat eater but absolutely loved it. The recipe is an absolute winner! The tomato sauce is lovely and so versatile for other dishes with pasta. Thanks.

  11. Michael Callaghan says:

    Melanzane Parmigiana is my absolute favourite dish but the way my friend Luca taught me how make it is dust the aubergine slices in plain flour and dip them in an egg wash before frying them and to use Parmesan not Mozzarella on each layer.

  12. Hi Patricia,

    Apologies for this, but the reason we skipped the basil, is that this is the classic tomato sugo that we also use in lots of other Italian dishes, which will not have the additional basil. A big kitchen learning of ours is to cook by taste, as this is often where we add things just because we feel like it on the day :) We all just like having fun in the kitchen with flavours and hope that you can to.

  13. bill says:

    quite right Romina, the recipes are there as a guide and leave you with some artistic licence to suit your mood on the day.
    The main thing is to enjoy yourself.

  14. Jason says:

    Inspired by our recent trip to Italy, this dish was superb!

    Easy to make, great to eat.

    We didn’t have the Cayenne pepper so used Paprika instead, nice and subtle flavour warmed through the dish.

  15. Teresa de Sousa says:

    Hi there
    Although this is a vegetarian dish, can this be tweaked to include meat i.e. mince meat?
    Many thanks

  16. Emi Chiappa says:

    we have never tried this but with the flavours that already exist something like a layer of prosciutto di parma might go really well with this…we will have to give it a go. Let us know if you try something different with it and thanks for tuning in!

  17. Siouxsie says:

    This is absolutely deliciouos and I will definitely be making it again x

  18. Frank Gilbert says:

    Northern or southern dish? All I know is my nonna used to make it when I was 5, and I am nearly 60 now! And that was in the… south! Marina di Vietri (near Salerno) to be precise. No need to add meat as I’ve always thought it tastes meaty anyway. I reckon that most people who didn’t know better would assume it has meat in it.

  19. Julie Bates says:

    Made this tonight and it was lovely, but I found it quite salty. Should I have rinsed the aubergines after salting them?

  20. Julie Farmer says:

    Made this last night and it was fab and very much enjoyed by hubby and daughter. Well worth the time taken to prepare and fry off the aubergine.Tomato sauce was delicious and equally easy to make. So excited about the book being released, shame it’s not out until next year. Oh well something to look forward to in one of the gloomiest months!! Good luck Chiappa sisters. X

  21. Donna Ryan says:

    My partner made this dish, it was absolutely delicious. Along with a nice glass of Red and Dean Martin playing in the back ground…. a wondeful evening :-)

  22. Alice says:

    This was tasty apart from being a little too salty. Think i was too liberal salting the aubergines.Have you tried this recipe without doing this stage I wonder?
    Also, can you recommend a UK stockist of those fab baci perugina chocs?

  23. Tracy says:

    Woke up very early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I thought I’d get a jump on dinner and try this recipe out. I’m just frying off the aubergines and completed the tomato sauce – which is FANTASTIC, so delicious. Seriously cannot wait for lunch!!

  24. Emi Chiappa says:

    Hi Julie, we don’t but you need to be very light when salting the aubergine, thanks for following

  25. Emi Chiappa says:

    Hi Alice, you need to be very light on the salt otherwise it can be very salty but you could miss this step altogether if you’d rather.

    We get a lot of lovely Italian produce from a brilliant website http://www.nifeislife.com they have Baci :)

  26. Jo Forster says:

    Just made this for me and my husband, it was absolutely scrummy, the flavours were so good and it went down a real treat!!!

  27. Diana wills says:

    Loved the recipe but used oregano as the herb. It was quite time consuming so wonder if it freezes well?

  28. This dish can definitely freeze! so glad you enjoyed it!

  29. saffy says:

    Tried your recipe and loved it. My OH is not keen on aubergines but so loved this dish. He has asked me to keep it as one of our regular dishes.

  30. veronica frost says:

    love this dish just had 2 weeks in tuscany so fed up to be back so i am cooking the melanzane parmigiana tonight to cheer my self up have loved cooking the dishes in the top ten dishes cannot wait for the book to come out

  31. just saying says:

    instead of frying the aubergines, can they be grilled?

  32. absolutely… happy grilling! :)

  33. Just Saying says:

    Thanks! and i assume the garlic needs to finely chopped as well and not just put in whole? Sorry im a novice

  34. That’s right… :)

  35. Just Saying says:

    Thanks! Going to try it will let you know.

  36. Jude Daniels says:

    Made this especially for my son’s partner. She loved it and so did the rest of us.

  37. Laura says:

    AmazIng!, made this for an Italian themed dinner party my guests loved it! Also made the tiramisu and the bruschetta…I can always depend on your recipes we had a fabulous meal.

  38. Gill Hughes says:

    Delicious, a lusciously rich dish. I had a bag of spinach that needed using up so stirred this into the sugo, went really well and everyone loved it. Grazie! Xxx

  39. Julia firth says:

    I have melanzanne in the freezer, can you cook it from frozen? It is a fabulous dish & we can’t wait until tomorrow.

  40. Hi Julia, you can definitely cook it straight from frozen – might just take a little longer to cook. Enjoy x

  41. yes you definitely can!

  42. […] since. Perhaps next time those pesky vegetarians come over (remember blog 1?) you can pull out this recipe to satisfy […]

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