From Nancy Silverton of Osteria Mozza, Pizzeria Mozza, and Chi Spacca:
I’ve always liked the idea of eggplant parmigiana but usually found it too heavy. My version streamlines the original but still bursts with vibrant flavors.
Basic Tomato Sauce
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups finely diced onions
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ medium carrot, peeled and shredded in a food processor or on a box grater
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
Melanzane alla Parmigiana
1 globe eggplant
Kosher salt, as needed
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
¾ cup Basic Tomato Sauce
Basil leaves, as needed
6 tablespoons stracchino cheese
¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
To make the tomato sauce: Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the carrots and thyme, and cook until the carrots are soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, including their juices, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer the sauce, stirring often, for about 30 minutes, until it has thickened slightly. (Be careful, the tomato sauce can burn easily if you don’t stir it often enough or if you have the heat too high.)
Pass the sauce through a food mill into a large bowl. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt or pepper, if desired. The sauce can be used right away, or made several days ahead. If making ahead, allow the sauce to cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate. (You’ll only need ¾ cup sauce for the melanzane; save the rest for another use.)
To make the melanzane: Preheat oven to 500℉. Line a sheet pan with parchment.
Slice the eggplant in 3 equally thick vertical slices. Place on the prepared sheet pan, and sprinkle with salt and a little olive oil; roast in the oven until golden brown, about 8 minutes.
Evenly spread ½ cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of a small baking dish. Place a slice of roasted eggplant on top of the tomato sauce. Spread 1 tablespoon of tomato sauce on top of the eggplant slice, and top with 2 or 3 basil leaves. Spread 2 tablespoons stracchino, broken into pieces, over the eggplant, and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of Parmigiano Reggiano. Top with a second slice of eggplant, and repeat the layering process with another tablespoon tomato sauce, 2 or 3 basil leaves, 2 tablespoons stracchino, and 1 tablespoon Parmigiano Reggiano. Add the final slice of eggplant, and this time add 2 tablespoons tomato sauce, along with 2 or 3 basil leaves, 2 tablespoons stracchino, and 2 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Note: Like the name suggests, the Basic Tomato Sauce used in this recipe is one that Silverton uses in a variety of dishes. You’ll only use ¾ cup of sauce for the eggplant, but you can keep any extra in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days, or in the freezer for up to 6 months. (The sauce recipe is also easily doubled if you want a bigger batch.) The only “secret” to this sauce is that you start with good canned tomatoes. Silverton’s preference, hands down, is San Marzano, a variety of plum tomatoes from Campania praised for its tart flavor and bright red color.