I always get really, really nervous when I try to make dish that my Nonnas’ are masters at. When I cook with them, things turn out perfect. As soon as I try it alone, it always comes out a little different. It kinda drives me nuts!
I’m sure there are a number of reasons for this. A lot of my nonna’s and grandma’s (also a nonna but demands being called grandma) cooking is done without measuring ingredients. Every time I cook with them they pull out these random bowls and cups that they have been using forever to “measure” things out for a certain dish.
Also, I can’t discount their experience and wisdom. Whereas this was my first time making melanzane alla parmigiana (or as everyone else calls it eggplant parmesan), they have been making it for decades. They could probably make it with their eyes closed! They have perfected the right blend of seasoning and they if they need to improvise they know how to without losing flavor.
That said I think there is one main reason in particular that mine tastes a little different from theirs – I try to create a healthier versions. I love classic Italian dishes and when I go to visit my grandparents, a fancy Italian restaurant, or the motherland itself, I allow myself to splurge and enjoy the real thing. Typically, this involves lots of oil, breading, salt and sugar, and of course cheese on cheese on cheese!! I think it’s totally acceptable to enjoy these classic-homemade-dishes every once in a while. They are the definition of comfort food for me. I also think that when your serving guests, this is a time to give them the real-deal. The dish in all its glory (calories’n’carbs’n’all!). But for week-to-week I need healthy alternatives that will satisfy without the guilt.
Enter this take on my personal favorite. There a few tweaks you can make to the recipe so that it’s healthier. Instead of breadcrumbs I used Japanese panko flakes, and instead of frying the eggplant in vegetable oil I simply bake them until tender in the inside and crispy outside. Also, if you want to cut the calories you can cut out the full-fat ricotta cheese and use the non-fat. And last, but never least- use the salt sparingly. This one is hard for me because I’m a definitely salty (not sweet) person but you gotta watch the sodium!
|2 large eggs, lightly beaten||11/2 teaspoons minced garlic|
|1 tablespoon water||¼ teaspoon salt|
|2 cups whole-wheat panko||1(16 ounce) container part-skim ricotta cheese|
|1/4 cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano||1 large egg, lightly beaten|
|2 (1 pound) eggplants, peeled and cut crosswise into ½ inch-thick slices||1 (24 Jar) of premium pasta sauce|
|Filling:||¼ teaspoon salt|
|½ teaspoon crushed red pepper||¾ cup finely grated fontina cheese|
|8 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese||¼ cup grated fresh parmigiano-reggiano|
|½ cup torn fresh basil|