The next time you're at an Italian restaurant you should consider having an eggplant dish. Italian cuisine is famous for its wonderful use of this vegetable. If you're only had store brought, frozen eggplant Parmesan meals, then you owe it to yourself to experience a freshly made eggplant dish at a nice restaurant.
Here is a list of some of the most popular eggplant dishes that you might find in an Italian restaurant like Tony & Joe's Pizzeria.
Pasta Alla Norma
This dish is a combination of pasta and eggplant. So, if your crazy about pasta, and don't feel like eating a dish that's only eggplant, then this is perfect. The dish originates in southern Italy, specifically Catania. Unlike many popular eggplant dishes, this one does not feature breaded or baked eggplant. Instead, cubes of eggplant are salted and left to stand in a strainer while olive oil and garlic are heated in a pan. The salt helps drain any excess water out of the eggplant. When the oil and garlic are heated, the eggplant is sauteed. It is not crisped, but only cooked until tender. This is then combined with short cut pasta, such as Penna, and ripe tomatoes, as well as ricotta salata are tossed in with the eggplant.
This is a great appetizer, which can also be eaten as a meal. It is a stew of eggplant, capers, basil, and pine nuts. There are different regional variations that might include raisins, or even octopus.
You could get this as an appetizer instead of meat and cheese heavy antipasto, or you could order it for dinner and have it with fresh bread.
Melanzane alla Parmigiana
Don't forget the classic eggplant Parmigiana. This is a worldwide favorite for good reason. Eggplant is sliced and breaded and fried. The eggplant is then layered in a baking dish with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. A good Italian restaurant will serve this meal fresh, and it will taste supremely better than the frozen stuff you might have had in the past.
Melanzane al Forno
If you want to go light on the cheese, but don't think that the stewed texture of caponata is to your liking, then you will love Melanzane al Forno. This is a classic baked eggplant dish. The eggplant is sliced thick and the skin is left on. It is drizzled with olive oil and small cloves of garlic are placed into the flesh. Along side the eggplant, small tomatoes and slices of onions are placed. Finally, red pepper flakes (peperoncino) and salt is applied. The eggplant dish is then baked until tender, and taken out before the eggplant begins to loose its shape. Then dish is then served.