Donatella Arpaia has given birth to more than one little miracle in the past few weeks. For one, she has a brand-new baby boy. She also delivered the Polpette Pizza, an excellent new pie at her eponymous restaurant that comes topped with her award-winning meatballs. Today she shares the recipe for another of her creations, the Eggplant Parmigiana on the menu at Donatella.
“The eggplant Parmesan is inspired by my great aunt, Aida, who made her classic dish in a 100-year-old cast-iron pan that she never washed,” says Arpaia. “My presentation in the mini cast-iron pan is a nod to her. The Parmigiana is layered and baked in the cast-iron pan, which gives it a great homey taste. Unlike most eggplant parms, which are breaded and have a heavy batter, my Neapolitan version is light and made with the freshest ingredients, like fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and its not over-seasoned.”
Donatella’s Eggplant Parmigiana
2 medium-sized eggplants, sliced 1 mm thin (use a mandolin, if you have one)
1 1/2 pounds buffalo mozzarella, sliced
2 bunches picked basil
3/4 quart grated Parmigiano
3/4 quart marinara sauce
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 quart extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
In a bowl or plate, thoroughly dredge the sliced eggplant, making sure to pat off excess flour. In a heavy-based pot, heat up the oil and begin frying the eggplant until it’s light brown in color. Once all eggplant is fried, season the chips. Coat the base of your 4-by-4-inch cast-iron or oven-safe dishes with marinara sauce. Add a single layer of eggplant chips, followed by a dusting of parmigiano, several pieces of basil, a thin layer of mozzarella, and a light drizzle of additional sauce. Repeat the layering process, beginning with eggplant and continuing with the additional ingredients. Once several layers are built, cover and bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Garnish with a basil leaf, and serve.