It's always fun to make a fridge clearout dish - this one sorts out your vegetable drawer. Just throw lots of Parmesan over it and nobody will guess the aubergine was a bit wilty!
What is a parmigiana?
Technically, parmigiana is an Italian dish of layered aubergines, tomato sauce and cheeses. That's it - no variations allowed. But as most recipes travelling out of Italy across the ocean, parmigiana alla melanzane soon became a chicken parm stateside: that's chicken Parmesan, not even parmigiana! I have seen (and made myself) other variations: pork parmigiana, very nice indeed, or veal.
What does 'parmigiana' mean?
You might think that anything with added Parmesan can be called parmigiana but the original dish is actually derived from the southern palmigiana or parmisciana meaning ‘shutters’ and referring to how the aubergine slices are laid in the dish overlapping each other, like shutters’ slats.
This recipe started as a side dish of grilled vegetables but I had some leftover tomato sauce and a bit of time on my hands. I love those accidental dishes! I swear to heavens, the best things ever turn up on Friday nights when I just throw together random end-of-the-week things lounging in the fridge to use them up.
Zucchini with cheese. Chilli mushrooms in butter. Eggs poached in spinach. Green beans with cream. Really, I should be doing that in my test kitchen and working out revolutionary recipes out of my accidental dishes but the problem is, they never taste as good when made on purpose!
Courgettes, aubergines, mushrooms, tomato sauce
You might ask whether I can call it 'parmigiana'. Well, if the rules are pre-cooked vegetables, layered slats-style, tomato sauce and Parmesan then I most certainly can. And even if you insist I call it courgette, aubergine and mushroom bake - it will be just as tasty.