Eggplant Mess or Pasticcio di Melanzane is a simple baked Italian eggplant casserole. It is layered with 2 types of cheese, a simple tomato sauce and spices. A toss between a lasagna and a parmigiano. Perfect as a side dish or main dish.
One of the most grilled vegetables in our house has to be eggplant. Between grilling it as a tasty Side Dish or appetizer to cooking it in a skillet with Bucatini Pasta! It has fast become one of my favourite summertime garden fresh veggies.
The ingredients needed for the recipe
- Eggplant – either Italian or Globe eggplant
- Parmesan Cheese – best to grate yourself than use bagged
- Fontina or Cacciocavallo- a soft creamy Italian cheese which is used instead of mozzarella
- Olive Oil
- Pelati Tomatoes – be sure to use tomatoes in their own juice with nothing else added
- Fresh Basil – you can substitute with 1 tablespoon of fresh basil for 1 teaspoon of dried
- Salt & Pepper (or hot pepper flakes)
How to tell if Eggplant is tender
You can tell if it’s tender and young by its firmness, size, colour and uniformity. The best ones are tender but firm, with smooth, shiny skin. In good condition the stem should be bright green, as it turns brown it becomes less desirable.
Is it necessary to place the eggplant under salt before grilling or frying?
It depends on the eggplant, if the eggplant is young and tender then I usually skip this step, although it does help make the dish more tender and less bitter. If you have time I recommend that you do do it. In a large bowl toss the sliced eggplant with a little salt, let sit for about 20-30 minutes, then drain, never rinse. Then either grill or fry the slices.
How to make it
Start by trimming and slicing the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices, place in a large bowl, toss with a little salt, let sit then drain, then either grill or fry each slice. Shred the cheese and grate the Parmesan, set aside.
Next, make the sauce, in a medium to large sauce pan add the olive oil and minced garlic, cook for a minute then add the pelati tomatoes, basil, salt and hot pepper flakes or pepper.
Cook on medium heat until thickend.
In a small oven safe baking dish, spoon a thin layer of sauce on the bottom, add a layer of grilled eggplant, some shredded cheese a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and continue for 3 layers.
Bake in a pre-heated oven, let sit 5 minutes then serve.
What is the difference between Parmigiano Reggiano and Parmesan?
The difference between them is that Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is authentic or DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta which means Protected Designation of Origin), and Parmesan cheese is just an imitation of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Reggiano is always made in Italy, while Parmesan can be made anywhere, there are no restrictions on using the name Parmesan. And don’t forget a less expensive but also a DOP choice is Parmigiano Grana Padano. This is why I always think it’s best to buy a chunk of good quality Parmesan and grate or shred it yourself. Remember ingredients can make or break your dish!
Where did it originate?
This dish originated in Calabria. Italians would pack this delicious dish either as a side dish or main dish and take it to serve as lunch for a day at the sea! If you want to make this dish even more like the original, then the eggplant slices should be fried, instead of using fontina cheese substitute with cacciocavollo. And a Creamy White Sauce (bechamel sauce) should be drizzled between the layers.
Any leftovers should be covered well or stored in an airtight container in the fridge. They will last up 3 days in the fridge.
Freeze it in an airtight freezer safe container. It will last up to 3 months. Reheat in a low oven or microwave.
More delicious Eggplant recipes
If you are looking for a way to use up some of your summer eggplants then I hope you try this recipe and let me know how it goes. Buon Appetito!
- 3 medium eggplants (sliced ¼ inch thick)*
- ¼-½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup parmesan cheese freshly grated (50 grams)
- 1 cup fontina cheese shredded
*The eggplant slices can be grilled on a pan grill or bbq. They can also be fried in a little olive oil in a frying pan.
FOR THE SAUCE
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 can pelati tomatoes (14 ounces)
- 4-5 fresh basil leaves chopped
- 1-2 dashes hot pepper flakes or black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- Pre-heat oven to 350F (180 C).
- Start by trimming and slicing the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices (you can either peel them or leave the skin on, I usually leave the skin on), place in a large bowl, toss with a little salt, let sit for 20-30 minutes then drain (do not rinse), then either grill or fry the slices. Shred the cheese and grate the Parmesan, set aside.
- Next make the sauce, in a medium to large sauce pan add the olive oil and minced garlic, cook for 1 minute then add the pelati tomatoes, basil, salt and hot pepper flakes or pepper. Cook on medium heat until thickened.
- In a small oven safe baking dish 7½x6 inches (19×15 cm), place a thin layer of sauce on the bottom, add a layer of grilled eggplant, some shredded cheese a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and continue for 3 layers, (divide the ingredients by 3 to make 3 layers).
- Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes, raise the heat to 400F (200C) and bake for another 2-3 minutes to brown the top. Remove from the oven and let sit 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
What can you use in place=of pelagic tomatoes. . .can’t find them. Looking forward to making this dish. Love eggplant.
Hi Maryann you can use any canned tomatoes just make sure there is nothing added to it (eg spices etc), just the tomatoes. Hope that helps.
Pam Sandusky says
I love the idea of the sauce. I prepare my eggplant, as my Dad taught my Mom, slice eggplants very thin. Then place on paper towels layers and put a heavy pot or mixer and let all the water release. Then fry or bake, but I like the taste of fried layers between the sauce. The thinnest layers are wonderful and not soggy as some restaurant prepare.
So happy I found your website and enjoy the stories as well the recipes. Keep up the good work!
Hi Pam, sounds delicious, and thank you glad you enjoy the website. Take care.
made this last nite…it was awesome! i couldnt find pelati tomatoes so i used diced tomatoes and a little tomato paste..i used a 28oz can and cooked it down. delicious recipe
Hi RM thanks so much, so glad you enjoyed it. Have a great week.
Delicious! I made this over the weekend and it was a big hit! My husband, who is usually a little suspicious of all but the most basic vegetables, loved it! I’ll definitely make this again. I used Globe eggplants but I’m going to look for the purple striped variety the next time. I did bake at 350 but I needed about 30 minutes for it to look right and then I just slid it under the broilr for a couple of minutes to finish it. Thanks for a great recipe. I enjoy your blog so much!
Hi Sandra, thanks so much, and so glad your husband enjoyed it too. Yes the purple striped are an amazing. variety. Have a great week.
Joan Santorelli says
I am just starting to bake the recipe. But I am confused. The recipe states to preheat the oven to 350 degrees, bake for twenty minutes. Then raise the temperature to 200 degrees to brown the top. I am sure this is a typo. Did you mean 400 degrees or 500 degrees?
Hi Joan, sorry about that, jumping between the different temperatures can get kind of confusing 🙂 . Thanks for letting me know, I fixed it. Have a great week. I hope you enjoy it.
So delicious 🍆 thank you for another wonderful recipe 🇮🇹🇺🇸💚👋
Hi Louise, thanks so much, so glad you like it. Have a great week.
Allison Garrett says
Just a note to say your food site is my favorite!!!!!
Have even gotten rid of some others.
Keep up the great work
Hi Allison, oh thank you so much, that just made my day! Have a great weekend.
Melissa Storms says
I have exactly 3 eggplant ready to be harvested out of 15 plants. Rain and I think flea beetles decimated my crop this year. I am going to make this for dinner tomorrow, it looks delicious and funny that my whole harvest is the amount called for in this recipe.
Hi Melissa, oh no that’s terrible, here it’s so hot and no rain. Well at least you have 3, let me know how the recipe goes. Enjoy your Sunday!