Southern Italy ~ Over the Hearth ~ Celebrate Tradition


It’s not an old Christmas tradition, but during the holiday season I break out the grill and make my mothers Timballo di Melenzane, from Calabria, which I have been making since I was 14. In America it was called Eggplant Parmigiano and it has become my signature dish and has changed and evolved as I have. I learned it from her and her mother and her sister Amelia and her cousin Elvira in the family village in Bucita, Calabria. It is a living recipe that goes back hundreds of years and  which, as far as I can tell, is unique to our family. And I have made it hundreds of times, and it keeps getting better each time.

The wine I pair it with is usually a rich red from the South of Italy, such as Primitivo or NegroAmaro from Puglia, Nero D’Avola, Aglianico or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo
 

Recipe to follow…

 

 

 

INGREDIENTS
               
                EGGPLANTS                       (4-5 MEDIUM SIZE FIRM)
                EGGS                                     (8-9 HARD BOILED)
                MOZZARELLA CHEESE (GRATED OR SLICED 1/8 THICK  ABOUT 1-1 1/2 LBS. DON’T          
USE THE FRESH VARIETY, ITS TOO SOFT)
PARMESAN CHEESE                        (GRATED, PREFERABLY WITH A ROTARY  HAND GRATER, THE  FOOD PROCESSOR IS TOO FINE FOR THIS RECIPE)
TOMATO SAUCE                               (YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN FROM SCRATCH OR YOU CAN USE CONTADINA TOMATO SAUCE, ABOUT  2 OR 3 OF THE  MEDIUM SIZED CANS. “CLASSICO” PREPARED TOMATO SAUCE, IN THE  20oz SIZE. , WORKS WELL. WHATEVER YOU USE YOU NEED THE SAUCE TO BE OF MEDIUM  CONSISTENCY, NOT THIN AND WATERY, NOT THICK.
 

                SPICES
                SALT
                PEPPER                                                ( BLACK & WHITE)
                GARLIC                                                ( TO TASTE, IN THE SAUCE)
                OREGANO
                OLIVE OIL                           ( THE BETTER IT IS, THE BETTER IT TASTES!)
·         Heat up the grill .
· slice the eggplants so that they are about 1/4 inch thick and resemble medallions. After all are sliced salt them lightly on both sides.
· proceed to the sauce-making.
· you can also start boiling up the eggs.
· the sauce is up to you, as i said above. I personally have used all approaches and it all depends on how much time you have. The “classico” brand is the right consistency and very dependable, and the contadina kind can be doctored up with garlic and pepper quite nicely too. The main thing about the sauce is that it will complement the other ingredients and should not overpower the eggs or the cheese or the eggplant.
· once the eggs are boiled, cool them and slice them in an egg slicer and set them aside.
· have the sliced mozzarella and the grated parmesan ready and set aside.
on the grill start arranging the eggplant slices on the grill, lightly brushing both sides with olive oil. Grill the eggplant slices they turn a golden brown on either side. If you darken some of them too much, don’t worry, they will still work. The main thing is to cook the eggplants so they are not tough. The skin softens up as well and adds texture and flavor to the casserole. Once they are all grilled one can gather the other ingredients to assemble the casserole. In the casserole dish (try to use glass or oven proof stone ware, as metal imparts an undesirable flavor in contact with the tomato sauce).
coat the surface lightly with olive oil. Spread a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom, not too much. Add the eggplant covering the surface, then the sliced eggs, then the mozzarella cheese, then a light coat of oregano, then a coat of grated parmesan. Layer it once again but this time disregard the oregano. Keep going until you reach the top of the casserole. The main idea when you reach the top is to finish it with tomato sauce and sprinkle the top with grated cheese. This gives it a traditional appearance which looks inviting. Remember everything in the casserole has either been cooked before or did not need to be cooked. Cover the casserole with its top or with foil. If you have any ingredients left over find another smaller casserole and assemble it as well. The beauty of this recipe is that if you make too much you have only to freeze it for another time. So don’t worry about it. Heat the oven up to about 350-375 degrees. Upon its heating up place the covered casserole in the oven for appx. 35-45 Minutes. Go have a glass of wine, preferably something italian and red. Don’t worry about overcooking it, the cheese might burn but that can be watched. As for undercooking, you cant do that as all ingredients are already cooked. This is the time where all the ingredients mingle and melt into each other, forming this wonderful dish. If you have guests over and are serving aperitifs and appetizers, you can put it in the oven beforehand. This dish can be assembled earlier and then can be popped in the oven when you need to have it. That way you can have as much fun as your guests. You might want to make a simple green salad to go with it, but don’t overdo it, this dish is filling. When you serve it, it should be hot but not scalding and one should cut it in sections and serve it in a pasta bowl. Have some warm baguettes of bread ready too as you will want to dip the bread in the dregs, believe me, the pope does it, you can too. That’s it !! Enjoy, have fun, and be happy !

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Reader Comments

Thanks for sharing this recipe! Yuuummmm!