This is something I have wanted to blog for AGES! When I’ve made it for people several have asked, “is this on the blog?” So far I’ve had to say no. Don’t ask me why it’s taken so long. No idea. But here it is, in its tomato-ey, garlic-y, veggie-fied glory! This is one of those vegetarian dishes where even vehement meat eaters like my husband really don’t miss the presence of meat on the plate. All you need to accompany it is some quick garlic bread (see below) and maybe, at a push, a green salad – but we don’t even bother with that sometimes.
It is a very easy dish, but a slightly laborious one, so for most people it’s a weekender. My go-to tomato sauce couldn’t be easier and quicker to put together then it simply simmers for a couple of hours. What takes effort is the frying off of sliced aubergines, 4 pan loads in this instance. Like I say, it’s not hard, just takes a while. So why not grab a glass of wine or cup of tea and put the radio on, and get down to work. It’s quite therapeutic – at least it is if the kids are out of the way.
My kids love this, hopefully yours will too. I making for baby then reduce the amount of salt in the sauce to whatever you feel Ok with. Any leftovers are nice stirred through pasta.
Serves: 4 adults
Prep time: 50 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours 30 minutes (if you fry off the aubergines whilst the sauce is cooking)
800g aubergines (about 3 big ones or 4 small), sliced into 1cm rounds
250g (2 balls) of mozzarella, sliced into rounds
75g parmesan, grated
A little oil, for frying aubergines
About 12 basil leaves
For the sauce:
2 cans of chopped tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of salt
- Put your sauce on to cook first. Thinly slice garlic and add it to the olive oil, cooking over a medium heat. Before it turns brown, just as it begins to sizzle, add the tomatoes. Add the salt (I know it seems a lot but it’s a large amount of sauce) and bring to boil. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.
- Slice your aubergines – I don’t salt them to remove the liquid, but I have a trick to avoid soggy watery aubergines, so don’t worry! Add half a tablespoon of oil per pan load of aubergines and let the oil become hot, then fry over a medium high heat, turning each one over when it’s brown, after about 5 minutes on the first side. Each batch will take about 10 minutes. I made 4 batches in a large frying pan. My trick: using a fork, once you’re frying on the second side, push down on each slice so any extra liquid comes out – this also makes them cook a bit faster. When each lot is done, let them cool off in a single layer on a plate so they don’t get too soggy, which they will do if you pile them all up together. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Once your sauce is made, ladle a bit into the bottom of a large baking dish, and top with a layer of aubergine. Scatter a few whole basil leaves. Then another layer of tomato, another of aubergine, and more basil. And repeat once more, so you have 3 layers. Top with sliced mozzarella and grated parmesan.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until brown and bubbling.
- Serve with garlic bread – my quick version goes like this: slice good quality artisan style bread and toast in toaster. Rub with a peeled clove of garlic and drizzle with extra virgin oil, sprinkle generously with salt. It’s fine to make this in advance, so it’s a good one to do for veggie friends.