This classic Italian dish from Sicily is often simply referred to as 'parmigiana' by the Sicilian locals. The richness and depth of flavour that you get from this authentic version is well worth the extra effort. Serve eggplant parmigiana with nothing more than crusty bread and a green salad.
Remove both ends of the eggplant. Cut eggplants into slices about 3 to 4mm thick. Pat dry with paper towel.
Heat about 3cm of oil in a saute pan until hot, then add eggplant slices and cook until golden on both sides. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. Season with salt.
Place the passata in a saucepan and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, garlic and 4 to 6 leaves of basil. Simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes, then remove the garlic.
If the mozzarella is too soft and watery, slice it and let it drain in a colander for 10 minutes.
Lightly grease a baking dish. Place an even layer of the fried eggplant slices on the bottom, then cover with a ladleful or two of the passata sauce. Top with a layer of mozzarella, a pinch of oregano, Parmesan and some chopped basil leaves. Continue layering in the same way, finishing with a layer of mozzarella and finally a drizzle of olive oil.
Bake at 190 degrees C for about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for a few minutes before slicing and serve warm.
Fresh mozzarella can be very soft so it might need to be drained before using. Too much water will soften the fried eggplant and produce too much water in the parmigiana. You can replace fresh mozzarella with scamorza cheese, which is a bit drier but just as tasty.
Prepare the parmigiana up to 24 hours in advance and let it sit at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours or in the fridge for longer time. This way, the eggplant will have the time to soak in the sauce and you'll get a tastier parmigiana.