melanzane

aubergine (eggplant)

The Arabs brought the first aubergines to Sicily, where they are still a staple, although it took centuries for them to become popular in the rest of Italy (they were despised as 'mela insana' and considered only fit for the poor). Today they're a vegetarian's best friend in Italy. One variety, the melanzana rossa di Rotonda, grown in Basilicata, looks more like a tomato.

Some of the classic dishes:

involtini di melanzane: slices rolled around a filling of anchovy, ham and cheese, or whatever.

melanzane alla campagnola: sliced and grilled, then topped with garlic, basil, mint and olive oil (Puglia).

melanzane al funghetto: not with funghi (mushrooms) as you might guess, but a simple Neapolitan sauce with tomatoes and garlic, used as a side dish or on pasta.

melanzane alla siciliana or alla siracusana: caponata.

melanzane al cioccolato: a remarkable dessert from the Amalfi coast, alternating layers of aubergine, chocolate and ricotta, with candied orange peel and almonds (recipe here).

melanzane ripiene: stuffed (usually with cheese, though melanzane ripiene alla calabrese uses ground meat, rice and cheese).

melanzane a scarpone: half a hollowed-out aubergine, stuffed with cheese and tomato, baked or fried in breadcrumbs (Naples).

parmigiana di melanzane: the Sicilian (or Neapolitan) classic of aubergines fried, then baked with parmesan cheese and tomato sauce.

pasta alla Norma: with aubergine, tomato, basil and ricotta salata.

polpette di melanzana: 'meatballs' of aubergine and cheese fried in egg and flour.

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