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Melanzane Parmigiana is an entirely vegetarian dish, but all the men in our family love it as it combines three layers of fantastic flavours (creamy mozzarella, oozy tomato sauce and tasty aubergines) which all fuse together when cooked.
Place a layer of aubergine slices on a plate. Sprinkle with salt and cover with kitchen paper. Continue with another layer on top until you have used up all the aubergine slices, finishing with kitchen paper. Weigh the aubergines down using something heavy, like a saucepan filled with water, and leave for 30 minutes so that the aubergine can release its bitter juices.
While the aubergines are releasing their bitter juices make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion for about 4 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic to the onion and cook for 30 seconds; be careful not to let it burn. Pour in the wine, if using, and keep stirring for 2 minutes. The aim is to burn off the alcohol, leaving just a hint of the lovely wine flavour.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato purée, sugar, cayenne pepper and stock cube. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Add salt and pepper to season to taste
Preheat the oven to 1 0 350 gas .
Brush each aubergine slice with a little oil and heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry the aubergine, a few slices at a time, until cooked through and golden on both sides. Add a little more oil to the pan if needed. Place the aubergine on some kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.
Cover the bottom of a 30cm x 20cm baking dish with 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Top with a layer of aubergine and lightly spread with 4 tablespoons of sauce. Sprinkle generously with mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat these layers (aubergine, sauce, mozzarella, and Parmesan) until you have used all the aubergine, finishing with a layer of sauce and Parmesan (no mozzarella).
Cook in the oven for 40 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.
To make this dish quicker to assemble, we like to prepare our aubergines and fry them the day before as well as the tomato sauce, so that when it comes to cook the dish, all you have to do is layer it up
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