Prepare Mamma Agata's Tomato Sauce and set aside until recipe calls for it.
Preparation of the Eggplant: The type of eggplant that Mamma Agata uses is very important in this recipe. The eggplant needs to be long, thin and firm; Japanese eggplant works best in this recipe. Explore the markets.
Mamma Agata's Secret
Large eggplant contains too much water; long, thin eggplant is best for this recipe and is critical to the success of a good Eggplant Parmigiana. Less water in your vegetables and more flavor in your dish!
Wash the eggplant and remove the bottoms of each eggplant. Peel the eggplant lengthwise in stripes - like a zebra. (Or as Mamma Agata would say "love me - love me not") using a potato peeler, keeping some of the skin on the eggplant to preserve the essential vitamins and flavor of the eggplant.
Remove the tops. Once the eggplant is peeled, slice the eggplant lengthwise but not too thin, as it will reduce in size once it has been cooked.
Layer the slices of eggplant in a colander, covering each layer with a pinch of "sea salt". Let the eggplant soak up the sea salt for 15 to 20 minutes; this process will allow the eggplant to drain the excess water and remove the bitter taste.
Gently squeeze out any excess water from the eggplant, starting from the top and ending at the bottom, 3 to 4 slices at a time. Do not rinse.
Sprinkle flour onto a plate and individually dip the eggplant into the flour. Do this quickly, as you do not want the eggplant to absorb too much flour, as they become too soggy to fry.
Follow Mamma Agata's Frying Instructions Fry the eggplant using Mamma Agata's frying instruction. (SEE BELOW)
Place the slices of fried eggplant onto paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Gather Mamma Agata's Tomato Sauce and the remaining ingredients, including the sliced mozzarella cheese, grated Parmesan cheese and slices of eggplant
Mamma Agata's Secret
Most recipes only call for 2 types of cheese in this recipe; however, Mamma Agata uses 3 types of cheese to enhance the flavor of the dish.
Mamma Agata's Secret
Buy your fresh mozzarella cheese (in water) 2 days before making your Eggplant Parmigiana! Remove the cheese from the water and place in the refrigerator to dry out
Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit
The next step is crucial; you must be very generous with each layer, so that the final outcome of the Eggplant Parmigiana remains very compact once sliced into separate portions.
Now begin to layer your Eggplant Parmigiana in a baking dish as follows:
Start with a layer of
And lastly, top it off with Mamma Agata's Tomato Sauce, "and remember - be generous with your layers!"
The 3rd or top layer is without mozzarella and provolone cheese, so that it cooks evenly in the oven without burning, and making the dish nicely browned on top
Note: Before placing the baking dish in the oven, place a cookie sheet or aluminum foil on the rack below your dish, as this dish tends to leak out when bubbling hot.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, increase the temperature of the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the parmigiana for an another 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat and leave the parmigiana in the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit on the counter for at least 40 minutes before serving to your guests, so that the flavors will have a chance to enhance before serving, and if you can wait until the following day, it is even better! Serve with fresh bread
Mamma Agata's Frying Secrets
About your frying pan:
1. Frying pan should be ugly!!!
2. Quantity of oil (1 Liter or Quart of Oil)
3. Very Hot oil - At least 375 degrees Fahrenheit
4. Quality Vegetable Oil (Peanut Oil works great)
5. Clean oil every time
Use the same frying pan for at least 3 to 4 years. (Mamma Agata calls this her 'Ugly Pan') The more seasoned the pan, the better the finished product will taste.
Once you have finished frying your food, use a paper towel to clean the pan. Every once in a while, gently wash the pan with water and a mild detergent, especially after frying fish, and make sure that you dry your pan well after each washing.
Use lots of oil in each pan - be very generous with your oil. The oil should be very hot oil to achieve the best results.
The quality of the oil is important. Seed oils are the best for frying. Mamma Agata uses peanut oil; however, make sure that your guests do not have nut allergies. If so, use a high quality vegetable oil as a substitute.
Olive oil is much too heavy for frying vegetables, as it creates too strong of a flavor in the finished product. Also, vegetable oil doesn't burn, smell or flavor the food.
Be sure to use fresh oil for each batch - do not reuse the oil.