David Rocco, the famous Italian chef on tv, prepared this recipe in one of the episodes of his show David Rocco's Dolce India. He gave it an Indian tadka using green chillies, coriander and garam masala. While that sounded exciting, I prefer the clean Italian flavours to mixing them with Indian flavours. Also, the eggplants fried in oil have a capacity to drink up copious quantities and since I wanted to take the healthier route, I used the airfryer to bypass the deep frying step. You can easily do this in an oven as well. I have described this in the recipe below.
You can either use this dish as a sauce for pasta or as a juicy filling for a sandwich. You can even eat it as it is with a slice of garlic bread or so, for a light lunch. It also makes a delicious topping for bruschetta, as an appetiser.
With very few ingredients, it is an authentic Italian dish that is great to have in your repertoire of vegetarian Italian recipes. If you want to add more punch to this, by all means add a few chillies to the olive oil while sautéing the garlic.
The original recipe does not use bell pepper, but I find that orange bell peppers add a lovely contrast and sweet juiciness to the dish. If you don't have bell peppers on hand, you can prepare this dish just with the eggplant and tomatoes, and possibly add a finely sliced onion along with the garlic. This has become one of my favourite eggplant recipes, so do give it a try!
Pomodori e Melanzane - Italian style fried eggplants in tomato sauce
Prep time: 20 minutes | Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serve with pasta, bread or in a sandwich
1 medium sized globe eggplant
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small orange bell pepper, diced (you can use yellow too)
5 medium tomatoes, blanched and peeled
2 tsp mixed dried herbs
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves and capers to garnish
- Keep a big bowl of water with 1 tsp of salt ready.
- Cut off the stem end of the eggplant. Cut into thick slices and uniformly dice each slice to get 1 cm cubes.
- Immediately immerse in salted water.
- Roughly chop the blanched tomatoes and keep aside.
- In a heavy bottomed wok, heat 1 tbsp olive oil.
- Crush the garlic cloves with the back of a knife. Add to oil. Don't brown this, within the next few seconds, add the bell pepper and saute over medium flame for 5 minutes.
- To this add the dried herbs, salt and chopped blanched tomatoes.
- Bring this to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, remove eggplant from water, squeeze thoroughly and add to a large bowl. Toss in 1 tbsp olive oil.
- Preparing fried eggplant in airfryer : Preheat airfryer to 180°C and place the oil tossed eggplant in the wire basket. Set the basket in the slot and dial the timer to 15 minutes. At the end of this, eggplant should be well cooked and golden.
- Add these golden eggplant cubes to the simmering tomato sauce. Check for salt, season with some ground black pepper and remove into a bowl or add to cooked pasta.
- Garnish with fresh herbs and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
If you don't have an airfryer, preheat oven to 190°C (convection mode). Line a tray with heavy duty aluminum foil. Place the oil tossed eggplant cubes in a single layer, place in the center rack and bake for around 25 minutes or until eggplant is golden and soft. Proceed with recipe.
Stove top method:
If you don't have an oven, take 1 inch of olive oil in a fry pan, fry the eggplant cubes on medium flame until soft and drain well on kitchen paper.