Aubergine tower – torretta di melanzane by Matteo Fantacchiotti

Our friend Matteo has shared with us a recipe inspired by the torretta di melanzane, a dish created by the renowned Italian chef Alfonso Iaccarino. If you want to taste the original, you can go to his restaurant Don Alfonso di Sant’Agata dei Due Golfi in the Amalfi Coast.

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Do you want to introduce yourself?

My name is Matteo, I‘m 44 years old, Italian. I like to consider myself an hospitality and F&B industry veteran having spent almost 20 years working in that field. I spent my career aiming to partner with customers and delight consumers with great indulging and possibly social moments. Being a perfect Tanqueray n.10 and tonic before dinner, a cold Carlsberg or S.Pellegrino over a meal or a nice glass of Ron Zacapa paired with chocolate after dinner. This industry is a passion, is an art.

Where are you originally from?

I’m originally from Turin but my roots are all over Italy with some patchy influence from Liguria, Sardinia, Naples and Sicily. This, paired with my wife origins from Puglia plus our last 5 years living in Asia, makes our family food habits very varied. We can say that we’re definitely a foodie family, we all like to cook, including the kids. Together with music, this is what we do at home.

And now, talking about food, what’s your favourite Italian recipe which you use to prepare often and easily?

Now you got me into a big cliche’. I need to say pizza, and I don’t like it as this is what we’re known for abroad while we have such an amazing array of gorgeous food and recipes in each and every Italian region. But my family tradition was that my dad was baking pizza for the family every Sunday and this is what I now do. We perfected a recipe over time that never fails and we usually have what we call “Sunday pizza party”: pizza and home movie with the kids.

What product from Italy do you miss the most?

You know, after some years living abroad you just realize how lucky we are in Italy to have such an amazing quality of great fresh ingredients and what you miss are the simplest recipes: a good caprese, or prosciutto and melone, or some grilled vegetables with olive oil. This is also what makes “la parmigiana” special for me. It is so simple: fried aubergines, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and parmesan. But if you eat it in restaurants abroad it is often a hit and miss as the tomato sauce is too complex and too tasty or the aubergines are too wet. This is a really simple dish. And if you have those great simple quality ingredients and if you follow the steps below (including drying up the aubergines before frying them up, very important)… have it with a nice glass of Greco di Tufo (an Italian white wine from Campania) and you will be in heaven!

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INGREDIENTS for 4 servings (for 4 small towers)

20 aubergine’s slices
extra vergine olive oil
500 gr tomato puree
coarse salt
1 smal onion, finely chopped
16 mozzarella’s slices 
oil, to fry
Parmesan, grated
handful of basil leaves

Remove the stalks from the aubergines, cut them in ∼ 5 mm round slices, put in a colander, sprinkle each slice with coarse salt and leave them for around an hour. In this way the bitterness goes away with the water and the the aubergines will be more crunches.

Meanwhile, in a medium pan sautè 3-4 tbs olive oil and the onion over a medium-high heat for few minutes, then add the tomato sauce. Seasoning with salt and basil and let it simmer gently for around 45 mins, stirring occasionally.

Gently rinse the aubergines to remove the salt, squeeze with your hands and dry thoroughly with kitchen paper.

The best oil to fry is extra vergine oil, or other oil with an high smoke point. The oil has to be hot (180 °C). If you can’t to measure the temperature try it putting into the oil a small bread piece, if it starts bubbling then the oil has reached the right temperature. Use a lot of oil to fry the eggplants, which have to float into it.

Pour oil into a frying pot, and put on a high heat. We suggest a small deep pot with.

Fry the aubergine slices until golden brown on both sides. After fried put the slices on the kitchen blotting paper to remove the extra oil.

Lightly grease a baking dish and make the small tower using a coppapasta. Start with one aubergine slice, followed by a mozzarella slice, 1 tbps of tomato sauce, sprinkle with parmesan and basil. Repeat this order for 4 layers, top with aubergine and parmesan.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until browned. Let the small towers to chill (∼10 min).  Spread 2 tomato sauce tbsp on each dish then put one tower on,  sprinkle with  basil and serve.

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