Updated: Tue, 15 December, 2020
Pork parm or parmigiana is about dunking perfectly nice, crisp pork schnitzels in tomato sauce and baking them with cheese. And what a result!
Parmigiana or parm, as adopted and renamed in America, is a dish composed of tomato sauce, cheese and the key/name ingredient fried in breadcrumbs and buried beneath.
The key ingredient, a bit like a lead singer in a band, may vary (unless (s)he’s a bully who writes all the songs). Aubergine is the best known key ingredient making what is known as melanzane parmigiana, aubergine alla parmigiana or eggplant parm.
Is it Parmigiana or parmigiana?
Digression: you can often spot the recipe name spelt with upper case 'p': chicken or eggplant Parm or even Parmesan. Although it seems to make sense if you think the dish name is derived from Parmesan cheese, it's not although Parmesan is an ingredient.
The Italians treat ‘parmigiana’ as a common noun because an Italian parmigiana is a dish with components arranged like ‘palmigiana’ - window shutters slats. Not Parma. Not Parmesan. I do like that explanation: ‘gotcha! not what you thought!’
What else parmigiana?
Another frequent main ingredient is chicken (chicken parmesan, chicken parm) whose leftovers invariably going into sandwiches. Or, as it is the case in Italian sandwich shops - the whole dish made as a sandwich filling.
I believe veal escalopes are also used occasionally as parmigiana material, but more common and more accessible is pork tenderloin. It works in the dish extremely well.
Any reservations you might have I'm prepared to blow away: pork will be tough? Meltingly tender if you mallet it into behaving. Breadcrumbs will be soggy and/or disintegrate? You won't even notice what the breadcrumbs are like - the dish tastes so lovely.
An added aubergine layer adds a bit of work to the dish but it adds a lot of value and makes it lighter.
Elements of pork parmigiana
I make my own tomato sauce using a dumbass-simple method: by cooking down a tin of chopped tomatoes with some seasoning and a basil leaf. There is a proper tomato sauce recipe here but for the purpose of a parmigiana, the no-recipe above is sufficient. Otherwise use a jar of good simple pasta or pizza sauce.
The pork needs to be flattened thin, coated in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and fried crisp. And if you get really tired and fed up at that point, you still have dinner of pork schnitzels.
The aubergine slices need frying but you can roast or grill them in the oven to avoid fuss - just make sure you don't burn them to crisps which is surprisingly easy to happen.
And the final stage is building the parmigiana which is always the best bit when making pasta bakes, casseroles and gratins. Sauce - Parmesan - pork - mozzarella - repeat - bake.
pork parmigianaServings: 4Time: 2 hours
- 400g (just under 1 pound) pork fillet, trimmed of fat and membranes
- salt and black pepper
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 2-3 tbsp. plain flour
- 100g (about 2 cups) Panko breadcrumbs
- vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 medium aubergine
- tomato sauce made from 1 tin of tomatoes, recipe here
- 250g (8 oz.) mozzarella, sliced or torn
- 50g (about 1 cup) grated Parmesan
1. Slice the pork fillet into even-sized cutlets, about 2.5cm thick - discard the thin end bits and use them in a stir-fry.
2. Place the cutlets on a chopping board between two sheets of cling film and flatten them with a mallet until really thin - cardboard thickness. Season the pork with salt and pepper.
3. Prepare the flour, the egg and the breadcrumbs in three shallow dishes. Coat each cutlet in the flour, then dip it in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs. Place the coated meat on a tray lined with paper towels and refrigerate.
4. Cut the aubergine into slices about 1cm thick. Brush all the slices with oil, heat a large frying pan and fry the aubergine in batches until softened and charred on both sides. Place them on paper towels.
5. Heat more oil (2cm deep) in the same frying pan until a crumb dropped into it sizzles and jumps about. Cook the pork cutlets, in batches if necessary, until gold and crisp on both sides. Transfer them to a paper towel lined dish.
6. Prepare a dish large enough to fit half the number of cutlets at the bottom, they may overlap slightly. Spoon some sauce over the bottom and sprinkle a third of the Parmesan. Place half the cutlets on top, followed by half the mozzarella. Top with half the remaining sauce, another third of the Parmesan, aubergine slices, the rest of the pork and the rest of the mozzarella. Top with the remaining sauce and Parmesan.
7. Bake the parmigiana in the oven preheated to 200C/400F/gas 6 for about 40 minutes until crispy and bubbling. Rest for a few minutes before serving with green salad or green vegetables.