To make the sugo, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium–low heat. Add the onion and cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding a little water if it starts to brown. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a minute further.
Stir in the tomatoes, passata, vinegar, salt, basil and 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) water. Bring to a low boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced and thickened to a saucy consistency.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F (fan-forced). Lightly grease a 20 cm (8 inch) square baking dish.
Heat a large heavy-based frying pan over medium–high heat. Brush some of the eggplant slices with some of the olive oil and cook on each side for 1 minute, or until golden brown. Remove to a plate lined with paper towel and finish cooking the remaining eggplant slices.
Lay some of the eggplant slices in the baking dish, in a single layer. Spread a cupful of the sugo over the top. Repeat with more eggplant and sugo layers, finishing with the sugo. Scatter the mozzarella over the top. Cover the dish with foil, transfer to the oven and bake for 1 hour.
Remove the dish from the oven and remove the foil. To make the topping, toss the breadcrumbs and olive oil together in a small bowl, scatter evenly over the bake, then sprinkle with the parmesan. Bake for a further 30 minutes, or until the topping is crunchy and golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Serve scattered with basil leaves.
This recipe is from 'Low & Slow: Comfort Food for Cold Nights' by Louise Franc. Published by Smith Street Books (RRP $39.99).
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