Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan from Varuni Napoli’s Luca Varuni

A perfect family meal

Eggplant Parmesan from Varuni Napoli

Photograph by Andrew Thomas Lee

“This recipe has been passed down from generation to generation, and it’s definitely a favorite of our guests,” says Varuni Napoli’s chef and owner Luca Varuni. “In Italy, we used to make a big tray of it to share with the family, so this recipe is perfect to enjoy over a relaxing family meal at home.”

Ragu sauce

¼ large yellow onion
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ can San Marzano tomatoes (2.5 kg per can)
4 ½ tbsp Italian tomato paste
1 ½ tsp basil
1 ½ tsp salt

Peel the onion and sauté the onion in extra virgin olive oil. While the onions are cooking, pass the tomatoes through a tomato grinder. When the extra virgin olive oil is hot, add the crushed tomatoes.

Add the tomato paste, salt and basil to the extra virgin olive oil. Let the tomatoes cook for 30 minutes on low heat while stirring occasionally. (Remove the onions after 15 minutes.)

Tips: Make sure the heat is not too high—you don’t want to burn the sauce. There shouldn’t be any chunks of tomatoes. You want a smooth, non-watery consistency. The sauce should be a dark red, crimson color.

Eggplant Parmesan

1 small eggplant
3 tbsp Pecorino Romano
1 ½ cups of fresh mozzarella (½ cup per layer)
2 tbsp salt
1 cup Ragu (¼ cup per layer)

Clean the eggplant and remove the stem. Cut the eggplant vertically making each slice 1/8 inch thick.

Fill a bowl with water and place the eggplant slices in the bowl with 2 tablespoons of salt. Make sure the slices are fully covered by the water. Let them soak for a few minutes. Take the slices out of the bowl and dry each slice completely. Fry the slices for two to three minutes. The slices should turn a light golden brown color.

Preheat oven to 500°F. Spread 1⁄4 cup of Ragu sauce on the bottom of the pan. For the first layer, use one full slice of eggplant. After, cut one full slice of eggplant in half and place on top of the first full slice of eggplant. Make sure to cross the first full slice with the half slices. Place another full slice on top. Cut another slice in half and layer on top. The first layer should have one full, two halves; one full, two halves. Cover each layer with ragu sauce, Pecorino Romano, and mozzarella. There will be three layers of eggplant, each with ragu, Pecorino Romano, and mozzarella.

Place pan in oven and at 500°F and cook for 10 mins. Once outside of the oven, cover with ¼ cup of Ragu, some Pecorino Romano, and one basil leaf. Let the dish cool before serving.