Parmigiana: the quintessence of Italian cooking!


People, the Parmigiana!

Please, stand up!

The quintessence of Italian cooking! An archetype. Any attempt at describing it with common words would break the enchantment its names can conjure  and the pathos it arouses. The silver bullet against any nutritionist, the crucifix that vaporizes any dietician…

A bit carried away? May be… but the thing of the crucifix is true! And actually, calling this fantastic dish a “pie” does no justice to it.

I certainly can’t start writing an essay on it, but let me point out one peculiar thing: its name does not come from “Parmigiano cheese” nor from the city of Parma. Actually, its origins are so uncertain that regions like either Campania and Emilia Romagna claim to be its homeland. Most probably instead, its origins route back to Sicily, where “parmiciana” is the dialect word for a set of wooden slats that forms a part of a shutter, and whose overlapping would recall the layered structure of the dish. Moreover, some say its name derives from the Sicilian “petrociane” aubergines, which are traditionally used for making Parmigiana.

Curiosities about the perfect Parmigiana

As you might have guessed, Parmigiana is not the perfect dish for people on a diet. So some people conveniently silence their conscience using grilled instead of deep-fried aubergines. The rest of the Italian population looks at them with suspicion and mistrust.

Half of Italy says it should be done only with Parmigiano cheese, the other half, only with mozzarella or caciocavallo which is a very tasty cheese made in the south of the country. I must admit: Parmigiano cheese is as Sicilian as Yorkshire pudding, but I couldn’t have access to any caciocavallo! So, I tried to make an acceptable compromise in order to write this recipe and publish it before the aubergines run out of season.

One last note about aubergines. Nowadays, they have completely lost their original lightly bitter taste: in generations, farmers have selected much gentle types of this plant. In the past, it would have been necessary to slice them, or dice them, and salt them in order to extract the bitter brown liquors from inside and they would have been put into a colander with a weight on top to speed up this time demanding process. You never know though: remember that any dominant genetic peculiarity can skip a generation. So you always have a little chance to end up with a slightly bitter aubergine in your supermarket bag.

You can find the recipe for this legendary dish in here.

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