Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmesan )

Name: Ramona Marks
Class Year: 2002
Country of Residence: Germany

Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory? 

During the 2015 refugee crisis in Germany, I became involved with our local volunteer group. After many projects and changing priorities, we founded a Verein, or club, at the beginning of 2020, and now have a similar social and tax status as a non-profit in the U.S. I’m the committee leader of the group we call Kulinarik, or culinary. We only had one cooking evening before the shutdown, but we are hoping to have cooking classes and a recipe exchange in the near future. 

I studied abroad in Italy when I was a student at MHC. I love Italy, and of course Italian food. Here where I live in Germany, there is a very large population of Italians, many of whom arrived in the 1970s as economic refugees and had children who have had children. They are a part of the community now, and refugees who arrived during the 2015 crisis are also becoming our neighbors and friends. Cooking together helps, whether Syrians, Iranians, Italians, Afghanis, this American, or of course Germans, among others.

The recipe I chose is an Italian recipe that surprised me: Parmigiana di Melanzane, or Eggplant Parmesan with eggplant that is not breaded. Unlike what I knew in the U.S., this recipe calls for quickly deep frying the eggplant before layering it between a simple tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves. As with so much of Italian cuisine, the recipe is deceptively simple and the outcome depends on the quality of the ingredients.

Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmesan )

Serves 4-6. Takes approx. 40 minutes + 40 minutes baking time


1kg eggplant / aubergine
700ml tomato passata
450g fresh mozzarella
80g parmesan or grana padano
1/4 of a white onion
fresh basil, olive oil, and salt


Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.

Cut the mozzarella into thin slices, about 5mm, and lay them out to dry a bit. If they are very damp, use a paper towel or clean dishcloth.

Chop the onion finely and fry it in about a teaspoon of olive oil over medium-low heat until slightly glassy (about 5min).

Add the passata to the onions and 5 or 6 basil leaves, torn or chopped roughly. Cover and cook the passata for about 20 minutes on medium-low heat. It can simmer but shouldn’t be bubbling wildly. After 20 minutes, set aside to cool. Taste the sauce and add salt to taste.

Prepare a plate or tray with towels where you can put the eggplant once done frying. 

Slice the eggplant thinly, about 4-5mm. Heat enough oil in a pan so that the slices will be kept from the bottom. You can use a small pan and less oil, but it will take much longer to cook all the eggplant. A wider pan will allow you to cook many slices at once. About 2-3cm of oil is sufficient. Fry each slice for only about 1.5 minutes, turning once (45 seconds per side). They will not brown, but they should cause the oil to bubble and hiss a bit. 

In the recipe, you are instructed to let all ingredients cool before layering, but I never have the patience for that so I assemble this warm and it has worked fine.

Prepare a casserole dish (9x13in) and all ingredients for layering. The first layer is a good serving of sauce. No need to oil the dish. The layers are in this order: sauce, eggplant, mozzarella, basil and sauce again. When the dish is almost full, the last layers are eggplant, sauce, and then sprinkle the parmesan on top. There should be some sauce left over.

Bake for 30 minutes, then add a few spoonfuls of sauce to the top, raise the temperature to 200C / 400F and bake an additional 10 minutes. (40 minutes total baking time).

This dish can be served at room temperature, 3-4 hours later, as in the original recipe. It is also delicious hot. Buon appetito!


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