Its hardly fair to call this Eggplant Parmesan—because it isn’t.
Its Eggplant Pecorino. Or so it was when I cooked it with Erika at her Agriturismo in Tuscany.
I just love the common sense of this: why serve guests a dish with cheese that is native to a different region? Mozzarella (which is the typical cheese for Eggplant Parmesan), is native to the Emilia Romagna region—north of Tuscany. The southern part of Tuscany is teaming with Pecorino; it is well-known for its Pecorino. So it only makes sense that Eggplant Parmesan would enjoy layers of Pecorino—if you are nestled in the hills of southern Tuscany.
Pecorino, like most artisan cheese, varies in flavor, texture and firmness based on age. (When cycling across Holland, we gained a huge appreciation for the origins of Edam cheese, tasted ‘May’ cheese and loved the sharp contrast between fresh, medium and well-aged Gouda). When Erika made Eggplant Parmesan she used young and medium Pecorino in the layers, and aged [sharp, firm] Pecorino for the top.
young, fresh pecorino OR mozzarella (or whatever cheese your area is famous for!)
grilled slices of eggplant (‘Gina and Gina’ both use indoor, oven-top grill plates and grill dry—no oil necessary)
1 can tomato pieces in puree
1/4 cup whole milk
extra virgin olive oil
for top: grated Parmesan and/or aged Pecorino (both with firm texture, sharp taste).
Mix can of tomatoes and milk. Plan for 3 layers: bottom layer grilled eggplant, fresh Pecorino/Mozzarella, tomato bechamel,’oregano, drizzle olive oil and salt. Repeat 2 more times—and then on top: grated Parmesan and/or aged Pecorino. Heat/bake at 400 until starts to brown & bubble. Invert on plate for service (and drizzle with olive oil).
What cheese do you use for your Eggplant Parmesan? What cheese is native to your region?