Creole Tomato Eggplant Parmigiana

Serves 12. Recipe is by Andrea’s Restaurant, Metairie.

For Basil and Tomato Sauce:

Olive oil as needed

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 tsp. chopped garlic

1/4 cup red wine

2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes

2 cups juice from tomatoes

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. white pepper

2 sprigs fresh oregano, chopped

8 fresh basil leaves, chopped

4 sprigs Italian parsley, chopped

1 bay leaf

For casserole:

3 lbs. eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices

Salt

1 cup flour

12 large 1/4-inch-thick slices of Creole tomato (about 3 large tomatoes)

1 lb. grated Parmesan cheese

2 lbs. shredded mozzarella cheese

3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup chopped oregano

For serving:

2 lbs. fresh angel hair pasta, cooked according to package instructions

1. Make the sauce: In a sauce pan over medium heat, heat olive oil until smoking. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until vegetables are wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a rolling boil. Immediately add the tomatoes, squeezing them between your fingers to break them up. Add the tomato juice. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until very thick, about 30 minutes.

2. Add about one cup water (more or less) to achieve a sauce thin enough to easily coat pasta, yet not so thin as to be runny. Add the salt, pepper, oregano, basil, parsley and bay leaf. Simmer sauce until the flavors marry, about 15 to 20 minutes. Adjust seasonings as needed.

3. While the sauce is simmering, sprinkle the eggplant slices liberally with salt. Place in a colander set in the sink or over a large plate. Place a weight atop the eggplant slices (a clean brick covered in foil works well). Leave the eggplant for the water to drain out, about 1/2 hour. Wash the salt from the eggplant and pat dry thoroughly.

4. Fry the eggplant. Add about 1 tablespoon olive oil to a large sauté plan set over medium-high heat. Coat each eggplant slice with flour and fry the slices, one layer at a time, in a sauté plan, adding scant amounts of additional olive oil if necessary. Drain the eggplant on paper towels.

4. Assemble the casserole: Coat the bottom of a 10-inch-by-12-inch casserole dish with olive oil. Spread one cup of the sauce along the bottom, top with one layer (about 12 slices) of the eggplant discs. Top each disc with a slice of Creole tomato, spread on another cup of the sauce, sprinkle with enough Parmesan to cover, then about one fourth of the mozzarella. Sprinkle lightly with basil and oregano. Repeat all layers except the Creole tomatoes. Continue layering until all ingredient are used, ending with a layer of Parmesan.

4. Bake in a 350 F oven until golden and bubbly, about 45 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and allow casserole to set up and cool for 30 minutes before serving. Serve with cooked pasta.