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!