……. so what is it? To be honest, I’d started out with the idea of making melanzane alla parmigiana but then I decided to add some minced beef to the tomato sauce, which changed the dish into something else altogether, something a bit more like a moussaka. Except that the flavours were far more Italian and it was like lasagne al forno, but with slices of aubergine instead of sheets of pasta.
Anyway, first I made a minced beef and tomato sauce. This sauce is brilliant as a base for all kinds of dishes. You can add chopped olives, mushrooms, capers, pancetta, peppers or whatever else you think will work, and serve it with pasta, rice or a jacket potato. It is incredibly versatile. If you cook some rice with the sauce (you may need additional water) until the rice is soft and the liquid all absorbed, you can use it to stuff vegetables, vine leave or blanched cabbage leaves.
250g lean minced beef
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 finely-chopped red onion
1 large crushed and chopped garlic clove
2 tablespoons of tomato purée
1 glass of dry white wine
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
I sautéed the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft and lightly coloured, added the beef and continued to cook until the meat lost its pinkness. Then I added in the tomato purée and dried oregano and carried on cooking until it was all mixed in. Then the wine went in and this was reduced until it was almost gone. Then I seasoned with salt and pepper and added the chopped tomatoes. This was simmered for around 40 minutes until the sauce was thick.
While this was cooking, I coated a sliced aubergine in flour and fried the slices until soft in olive oil. I also made a simple béchamel sauce.
The other ingredient was a block of that rubbery cooking mozzarella that you can buy in supermarkets and Italian shops. The one you see most often is made by Galbani, but you can also get smaller blocks in Waitrose, labelled “pizza mozzarella”, which is what I used. I cut this up into small cubes.
The next stage was assembling the dish. I ladled a third of the sauce into an oven dish and covered it with half of the aubergine slices. On top I scattered some of the mozzarella. Then I repeated this with another sauce/aubergine/cheese layer. The top layer was the rest of the meat sauce, the béchamel and the last of the mozzarella. I grated some Parmesan cheese on top and set this aside until I was ready to cook it.
It went into a 180C oven for around 40 minutes, until the top was bubbling and golden.
We ate this with a green salad and some crusty olive ciabatta.