Parm Wonderful

 

eggplants It’s hard to improve upon that spectacular gooey baked dish eggplant parmesan, aka melanzane alla parmigiana. It is the summer comfort food of choice for legions of Italians and Italian-Americans (and, no doubt, countless other humans, too).

I mean, why mess with a classic, right?

The truth is, some of us can’t help ourselves. That’s how I ended up with this concoction, which I have dubbed Parm Wonderful. Layers of eggplant and zucchini, grilled rather than fried, plus fresh mozzarella, plus fresh tomato sauce, plus parmigiano cheese. Lighter than the traditional version with breaded and fried eggplant, but still rich enough to qualify as true summer comfort.

veg parm square

I made this the other night while visiting my sister and her family in New Jersey. It’s a variation on the Grilled Summer Vegetables alla Parmigiana in The Glorious Vegetables of Italy. That version calls for a layer of grilled peppers in addition to the eggplant and zucchini, but we didn’t have any on hand. (I know, what kind of Italians don’t have peppers on hand in high summer?)

We served it as a side dish, along with fresh Jersey corn (the best) and grilled flank steak. But it could easily be the main course ~ just add bread and a simple salad. And a glass of red wine, obviously (Chianti or Nero d’Avola, says my wine guru). You should make it, and make it your own.

What would your riff on classic eggplant parm be?

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Grilled Summer Vegetables alla Parmigiana

I decided it was time to give classic eggplant alla parmigiana a summer makeover. Sliced eggplant and zucchini are grilled, rather than fried, layered with fresh mozzarella and simple tomato sauce, and baked. This is a casual recipe, meaning that I made it on the fly and didn't take close note of amounts and measurements. However, it is adapted from a recipe in The Glorious Vegetables of Italy , where you will find precise measurements and instructions.

Ingredients

  • 4 medium eggplants
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Simple Tomato Sauce or your own fresh tomato sauce
  • 1 (1 lb) ball fresh mozzarella cheese (not in water), thinly sliced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Instructions

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high.

Cut the eggplants lengthwise or crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut the zucchini lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Brush the vegetables lightly on both sides with good olive oil and sprinkle both sides with salt. Lay the vegetables on the grill grate and grill for 2 to 4 minutes per side, depending on how hot your flame is. You want grill marks and a few blackened spots but you want to give the vegetables time to soften a bit as well. Transfer the vegetables to a plate.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly coat a square, oval or rectangular baking dish with olive oil. Spoon in a little tomato sauce, enough to cover the bottom. Arrange half of the eggplant slices on top of the sauce, overlapping them a bit if necessary. Cover with 1/3 of the mozzarella, then spoon a layer of sauce over the cheese.

Arrange the zucchini on top of the sauce in one layer, overlapping them if necessary. Cover with half the remaining mozzarella, then a layer of sauce. Arrange the rest of the eggplant slices on top of the sauce and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Cover lightly with sauce and sprinkle the surface with the Parmigiano cheese.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes; uncover and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, until browned on top and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let sit 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

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35 Responses to Parm Wonderful

  1. Rosa Mayland August 4, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    A fantastic gratin! I love zucchini and eggplants and cannot get tired of eating them…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    • Domenica Marchetti August 5, 2014 at 8:21 am #

      I’m the same way, Rosa. So many people complain about too many zucchini but I always want more. So many wonderful ways to cook them.

  2. Cristina August 4, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    This is my favorite!! Will definitely be making this soon!!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 5, 2014 at 8:22 am #

      I’m making it again soon, too ~ like tomorrow when I go to the farmers’ market to get more zukes and eggplant!

  3. Frank Fariello August 4, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    Wow, I love classic parmigiana (one of my grandmother’s specialties) and I love the zucchini version. So why not *both*? What a great idea.

    • Domenica Marchetti August 5, 2014 at 9:05 am #

      Thanks Frank. It’s one of my favorites. I’ll have to check your site for your grandmother’s version.

  4. Ciao Chow Linda August 4, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    You know what? I just picked two globe zucchini from my garden and there are two eggplants on my counter, all awaiting some inspiration. I think I just found it. Grazie cara.

    • Domenica Marchetti August 5, 2014 at 9:06 am #

      Prego, bella. And in bocca al lupo for your triathalon. I’m in awe!

  5. NJ Spice August 4, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    This is perfect for the Garden State!

  6. Jamie August 4, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    I love eggplant parmigiano but never make it because of how fat and heavy it is with all that scrumptious fried eggplant. This is a fabulous alternative and so much more summery! And beautiful!!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 5, 2014 at 9:08 am #

      Thanks, my friend. I actually like the grilled version better. You really get the flavor of the vegetables this way, and it’s much more digestible.

  7. bettyannquirino @Mango_Queen August 4, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

    I love this recipe. Eggplants are my favorite vegetable and I have a huge basket of them right now. However, I have the Asian eggplant variety — long, slim, but tender and sweet when cooked. I will try this recipe right away. Thanks for sharing such a simple yet divine way with eggplants. Hope your summer is going well, Domenica!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 5, 2014 at 9:08 am #

      Love those sweet Asian eggplants, Betty Ann. You could probably just slice them in half lengthwise and grill them for this recipe. I’ll have to try it. Cheers, my friend.

  8. italyonmymind August 4, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

    una melanzana completamente bianca?? incredibile!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 5, 2014 at 9:09 am #

      Si, l’ho comprato al mercato. Sembra un uovo gigante. 🙂

    • Mary Louise Tucker August 5, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

      Ciao, l’ho comprato al mercato in Adelaide. Sicuramente si possono trovare melanzana bianca a Melbourne.

  9. Judy @Savoring Today August 5, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    Just seeing the photo made me crave lasagna, but it is too warm for that as yet. Soon. Very soon!

  10. elisa August 5, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    I love le melanzane bianche (Bianca di Imola), because they don’t have the bitter taste of the purple ones, the taste is actually sweet and Iike to grill them like you Domenica and make a piadina with it. YUM!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 6, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

      They ARE sweet, the white ones. I just made another parmigiana tonight and I tasted a slice on its own. Do you make your own dough for piadine Elisa?

  11. Mary Louise Tucker August 5, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    Can’t wait for eggplant and zucchini season again here in the antipodes!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 6, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

      The season will be there before you know it, ML. And we’ll be freezing and eating turnips :-/

  12. Adri Barr Crocetti August 5, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

    What a wonderful dish! I know the recipe from you book, and this is a terrific variation. Yet still some moms can’t get their kids to eat vegetables. It’s like I said before – they need to hang around your table more. And I’m with your wine guru on the Nero d’Avola; I can’t get enough of the stuff. Complimenti!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 6, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

      Adri, nice to see you back here, amica. I did a book signing the other day and we handed out samples of the chick pea salad with tomatoes and cukes from Glorious Vegetables. One little toddler in a stroller couldn’t get enough of it. I think kids will eat vegetables as long as they TASTE GOOD.

  13. Chiara August 6, 2014 at 1:53 am #

    che bella versione Domenica, proverò a farla anche io !

  14. Laura (Tutti Dolci) August 6, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    I love eggplant parmesan but I love that you grilled the vegetables even more – what a perfect summer dish!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 6, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

      I like it this way better than the traditional version, Laura. Give it a try.

  15. elisa August 7, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    Domenica, I make my own doughfor the piadine following a recipe from an old Giallo Zafferano program, but I substitute the lard with olive oil. I use a cast iron skillet to grill them. When I don’t have the time I use Naan bread and “regrill it” in the same cast iron pan.

    • Domenica Marchetti August 9, 2014 at 8:38 am #

      Ah, thanks Elisa. I have made piadina dough using a recipe from Fabio Trabocchi, a chef in DC whose book, La Cucina dell Marche, was published some years ago. He, too, uses lard. I substituted butter but I’ll try olive oil next time. Grazie

  16. Phyllis@Oracibo August 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    Thanks for making me feel that I wasn’t being sacrilegious about changing up a “classic”, I can slelep better knowing that you have no compunction about it either! From the very first time I made Eggplant Parm, I grilled the eggplant for the very reason that others have mentioned and as it turns out like the taste better. My hubby thinks the one I made in Chianti, the eggplant was grilled over wood, was my best ever. Two thumbs up from this corner about the Nero d’Avola too! Salute! BTW…love your book!

    • Domenica Marchetti August 9, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

      Thanks Phyllis, you made my day. Hat tip to my sister, who first told me about grilling the eggplant a few years ago. I, like you, much prefer it to the original. I am always concerned about straying too far from tradition but…ogni tanto ci vuole, giusto?

      • Phyllis @ Oracibo August 12, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

        All we have to do is make sure we don’t tell those traditionalists! You know how they can be!!

  17. sippitysup August 12, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

    There’s only one small problem in my otherwise marvelously perfect life. My partner won’t eat eggplant. Won’t even try to. It’s mind boggling to me… so thanks for the fix. GREG

    • Phyllis @ Oracibo August 12, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      So sorry to hear that! I mean I can see raw oysters…but delicious, tomatoey, creamy, cheesy eggplant parm! Oh well, I will just have to consider myself lucky because my hubby adores eggplant! I can see you creeping around at midnight searching out restos. that have eggplant parm. just for the fix!

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