I lead culinary tours in Italy, and I first tasted this simple Neapolitan eggplant dish when Nonna Rosa carne to cook for my guests during my first tour in Sorrento. She was a hit, and so was this amazing dish! The eggplant, which is cooked “mushroom style” in a light tornato and basil sauce, has a buttery quality that melts in your mouth.
1. If desired, purge the eggplant by putting the cubes in a colander and sprinkling the eggplant generously with salt. Put a plate on top to weigh down the eggplant and piace the colander over a bowl to catch the liquid. Let the water drain from the eggplant for 30 to 60 minutes. Rinse the eggplant under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. (My nonna never did this and all her dishes turned out wonderfully!)
2. Heat ¾ cup (180 ml) of the olive oil in a large skillet over mediumhigh heat. Add the eggplant in 2 or 3 batches, adding more oil as needed, and fry until golden brown around the edges, 5 to
10 minutes per batch. Transfer the eggplant to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
3. Heat the 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of extra-virgin olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook and stir until it just begins to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the garlic and discard.
4. Add the tomatoes and a dash of the salt to the garlic-infused oil. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the tomatoes have broken down into a chunky sauce, 5 to 7 minutes.
5. Add the fried eggplant and the basil to the sauté pan. Add the remaining salt and cook and stir for an additional 5 minutes.
Nonna Rosa Says
I sauté the garlic in oil very briefly and remove it. The idea is to just flavor the oil with the essence of the garlic, but you can mince it and leave it in if you prefer.