The hugely popular Southern Italian al-forno dish, eggplant parmesan (parmigiana di melanzane), is a delicious combination of smooth and silky aubergine, a home-made rich, herby, tomato sauce, plus mozzarella and Pecorino.
Prepare your aubergines by slicing them quite thickly (c.2cm/1" thick). Put them in a colander, and sprinkle with salt. Weigh them down (I use a side plate with a heavy pan on top) and leave in the sink for half an hour or so (the salt will make the aubergines ‘sweat’, extracting any bitterness).
Pre-heat your oven to 175°C/350°F.
Once the aubergines are ready, rinse well, and pat dry with a clean tea-towel or some kitchen roll.
Rinse and dry the mozzarella.
Pre-cook the aubergines
By far the easiest and least messy way of flouring them is to put the flour into a large plastic bag, along with the salt and pepper. Dip the slices of aubergine into the aquafaba, then pop them into the bag; hold the top of the bag closed, and shake it all up.
Heat the oil in a skillet, and add 3-4 of the floured aubergine slices.
Fry over a medium-high heat for a minute or so, then flip over, and cook the other side. Remove from the skillet, and place onto kitchen paper.
Repeat for the rest of the aubergine.
Cut the mozzarella into slices about ½cm (c.¼") thick.
In a large oven dish, start with a thin layer of tomato sauce, then arrange a layer of aubergine slices on top, so that each one slightly overlaps its neighbour (like those shutter slats). Add another layer of sauce, and then a layer of mozzarella. Continue this way, finishing with a layer of tomato sauce.
Bake in the oven for about 45 mins. Do check it though because as we know, all ovens are not created equal - you don’t want it to burn.
The dish is cooked when it is starting to brown on top and the aubergines are soft.
Once it's done, remove from the oven, and sprinkle the Pecorino over the top, along with some torn basil. Serve with a simple green salad and some fresh bread.
Leftovers can be covered up, and kept in the 'fridge for 2-3 days. Do not freeze.