Eggplants parmigiana: the history of one of the most loved Italian recipes

Eggplants parmigiana: the history of one of the most loved Italian recipes

When the parmigiana is on the table.. Italians smile! This is one of the most celebrated recipes all around Italy, every region has its own parmigiana version and they are all somehow unique and delicious.

Depending on the region, this classic southern Italian eggplant casserole is made with fried or grilled slices of eggplant layered with an aromatic, basil-flavored tomato sauce, and one or more cheeses such as pecorino Siciliano, mozzarella, fiordilatte, or even scamorza and caciocavallo .

Parmigiana originally had nothing to do with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, even though it is nowadays used in many recipes as it makes for an extra crunchy top crust.



Parmigiana is believed to have originated in Sicily, as it is often suggested that the name of this luscious Italian dish stems either from the Sicilian word parmiciana, which means "Persian", or the Arabic badhnajan, which means "eggplant". Even though eggplants were introduced to Sicily in the 8th century during Arab rule, they were at first considered inedible or even poisonous, hence the name melanzane, an abbreviation of mele insane ("crazy apples"). For centuries onward, eggplants were grown for purely ornamental purposes, and it wasn't until the 16th century, when tomatoes were first introduced by the Spaniards, that Italians began combining these two ingredients to prepare the infamous parmigiana. In 1837, Neapolitan chef and writer Ippolito Cavalcanti described a basic eggplant gratin in his cookbook Cucina Teorico-Pratica, and although his version bears a great resemblance to the dish we know today, Cavalcanti's recipe includes neither tomato sauce nor cheese, so the true origins of parmigiana still remain vague.