This is one of my most favourite dishes growing up. Back then, dad used to fry off the aubergines and though still tasty, I was always anti grease, and so I took to grilling them. You still get a great flavour by grilling, if not better, but you need to also ensure that the ingredients you use also are of a good quality. Typically with any of my sauces, I always go for the Cirio or Napolian range. I like strong black olives, like marinated dried greek olives as well as a good quality parmesan cheese. This goes well with some nice crusty break or just a mixed green salad.
For the sauce
For the parmigiana
3 x large aubergines
1 x 130g box of Wiltshire or honey roast ham (sliced)
2 x 125g buffalo mozzarella (torn)
200g of grated parmesan
100g of black olives
2/3 tbsp of oregano
1 x cup of Panko breadcrumbs
Heat a griddle pan and ensure it is hot. Wash and dry the aubergines and slice lengthways. Once the pan is hot, place the aubergines on and dust with a little salt. Turn until both sides are nicely browned. When ready, I would normally put into a bowl and cover with clingfilm so that the steam continues to soften the aubergine slice.
Fry off the onion, garlic and chilli until soft. Add the tomato puree, and then then the passata and chopped tomato's. Add some basil and seasoning and let it simmer for 30 minutes. To give it a little richness add a little red wine, or even better a little shot of port. When ready add the spinach, set aside to wilt and leave to cool slightly.
Chop the mozzarella, chop the olives, grate the parmesan, cut the ham and prepare them in a bowl ready for easy layering.
In a baking dish, I use a 26cm rectangular baking dish, take a little sauce and spread onto the bottom of the dish. Then add a layer of aubergine, sprinkle the top with ham, mozzarella, oregano, olives, parmesan and then add another layer of aubergine. Add a layer of sauce and then repeat the layering of mozzarella, ham, olives, oregano etc. Repeat until you have filled the baking dish at least 3 to 4 layers of aubergine high. Top the dish with the remainder of sauce and then sprinkle with parmesan, panko breadcrumbs and a little oregano. I normally sprinkle a little olive oil on the top and set aside for the layers to settle.
Bake for 40 minutes in the oven at 180/350f/gas mark 4. Let it rest for 5 minutes before cutting portions.