I first had this as a teenager in the local Italian restaurant chain, Pasta Fresca, which used to be pretty famous back then in Singapore. I was totally blown away and it became one of the regular items I would order when I visited any good Italian restaurants. I even had it as my main sometimes – eventhough this was considered more of an appetiser item – simply because I didn’t like to share it.
Fast forward many years later, I decided to recreate this when I finally moved out and had my own home and kitchen. I read many recipes online and decided that I would simplify the method so that it’s simple to make with little cleanup needed. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. It’s been fail-safe for me so far and I usually make it when I have guests and it has always been well received. I freeze batches of them in my fridge and thaw them in the fridge a day ahead of when I would need it. Makes it so quick and easy.
Let’s first talk about the eggplant. I use these long ones, but you can also use the dark coloured fat ones, or the short smaller ones. I prefer these only because you need quite a bit of them for this recipe if you want to make a few servings, and they are cheap, and taste good. The ones you see here are about 30cm in length and they just about make 3 medium trays, each one giving a yield of 2 small servings, and each serving when accompanied with sides, is good enough for 1 meal each.
- 3 long eggplants – approximately 30cm – cut into 3/4 cm slices
- 1 bottle of pasta sauce – I use Prego (660g) Traditional or Mushroom or whichever flavour you prefer
- 1 packet of grated parmesan cheese (250g) – I use Perfect Italiano as preferred
- 1 packet of grated mozzerella (450g) – per above
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread out the eggplant slices as shown (I yielded 2 trays). Liberally douse it with olive oil as shown and grind salt and pepper over the eggplant, taking care to ensure that every piece gets flavoured. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees celcius until nicely browned and soft, about 20-25 mins.
It should look like this.
Here you can use a casserole dish or aluminium trays, the latter is great for me since I sometimes bring it with me to work. I typically use both. Here we will do an assembly that is simple and repetitive.
- Smear a thin layer of pasta sauce at the base.
- Add an even layer of eggplant. You can squish them a little to make sure they do not overlap.
- Sprinkle a thin layer of pamesan cheese.
- Sprinkle a thin layer of mozzerella.
- From here on it’s repetitive. Another layer of pasta sauce.
- Another layer of eggplant… and repeat steps following the sequence laid out in steps 1-4 until you fill up the tray. .
Finish off the final layer with more mozzarella so you get a nice layer of it.
Here’s how it looks in a casserole dish.
At this point, if you are intending to keep any of these trays for later use, wrap it up in aluminium foil and freeze it. Should keep pretty well (I have kept mine for about 1 month and it was still ok)
But if you are intending to eat it, bake it in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees celcius for 20-25 mins or until the top portion of the cheese has melted and browned, the contents bubbling and it’s screaming “EAT ME! EAT ME!!” at you.
Dish it out and serve it with a side, I recommend a simple mix of cherry tomatoes, rocket leaves which have been dressed with balsamic vinegar and truffle oil. If you like spicy, I highly recommend eating your nice cheesy eggplant with lots of tabasco.
Or you can just eat it straight out of the casserole, with a drink.
- When salting your eggplant slices, remember not to over-salt it because all the other ingredients are also salty. If you prefer less salt, then omit salting your eggplants.
- Also remember that salt draws out moisture, so salt your eggplants just before you are about to pop it into the oven, do not let it sit.
- It is important that when you smear in the pasta sauce, that you only do thin layers as shown, because if you are over zealous, you end up with something swimming in too much pasta sauce. And don’t forget there are a few layers in each tray so cumulatively they make up for quite a bit.