Melanzane alla Parmigiana
|Place of origin||Italy|
|Region or state||Southern Italy|
|Main ingredient(s)||Eggplant or breaded meat, cheese, tomato sauce|
Parmigiana, parmigiana di melanzane, or melanzane alla parmigiana is a Southern Italian dish made with a shallow or deep-fried sliced filling, layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked. Parmigiana made with a filling of eggplant (also called aubergine) is the earliest version. Variations made with breaded meat cutlets, such as veal and chicken, have been popularized in other countries, usually in areas of Italian immigration, and occasionally other vegetables such as zucchini may be used in Italy.
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The dish is claimed by both Campania and Sicily. While "parmigiana" usually means "from Parma" (in Northern Italy), the dish is not part of the cuisine of Parma and take its name from "Parmigiano Reggiano". It is a Southern Italian dish.
Many variations are found world-wide, most often in countries where large numbers of Italians immigrated. Examples of dishes developed outside of Italy from the early parmigianas include veal (Veal Parmigiana) or chicken breast (Chicken Parmigiana) dipped in a mixture of beaten eggs, breaded, shallow-fried and topped with a marinara sauce (red Sicilian tomato sauce) and mozzarella. It is then usually baked until the cheese is bubbly and brown. The veal dish is known in Italian as Cotolette alla Bolognese.
Parmigiana is also used in the names of unrelated dishes that do form part of the cuisine of Parma, such as trippa alla parmigiana (Parma-style tripe).
The dish consists of a sliced filling pan fried in oil, layered with tomato sauce and cheese, and baked in an oven. In some versions, the sliced filling is first dipped in beaten eggs and dredged in flour or breadcrumbs before frying. Some recipes use hard grated cheeses such as Parmesan, while others use softer melting cheeses like mozzarella, or a combination of these.
In the United States and Canada, veal parmigiana or chicken parmigiana is often served as an entree, and sometimes is served as a grinder or a submarine sandwich. It is also popular with a side of or on top of pasta. Diced onions or green bell peppers, sauteed or raw, are sometimes added.
Veal or chicken parmigiana is a common dish in Australia and Argentina and in both countries often served with a side of chips or salad. In Australia it may also contain a variety of toppings, including sliced ham or fried aubergine slices. This dish is often referred to as a parmy or parma.
In Argentina it is called "Milanesa" (if beef or veal), "de Pollo" (chicken), "de Berenjena" (eggplant) or "de Cerdo" (pork) ending in "a la Napolitana" when served with a slice of ham and topped with a variety of melted cheeses and tomato sauce and/or a slice of tomato; or simply Milanesa if served without toppings and garnished with a slice of lemon.
There are several conflicting theories for the origin of the name parmigiana.
With its liberal use of aubergines and tomatoes, this is most likely an ancient Sicilian dish which, in many cookbooks is erroneously described as deriving its name from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, one of the ingredients. However "parmigiana" is the Italianization of the Sicilian dialectal word "parmiciana", which refers to the slats of wood which compose the central part of a shutter and overlap in the same manner as the slices of aubergine in the dish."
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