- 2 pounds (or a bit more) small globe or larger oblong eggplants
- Olive oil
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 1 plump clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon herbes de Provence or 1 teaspoon marjoram leaves, chopped
- 2½ pounds ripe full-sized tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, or 2 cups crushed canned tomatoes
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup ricotta
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 good pinch saffron threads, crumbled and soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 10 large basil leaves, torn into pieces
Heat the oven to 400°F.
Cut the eggplants in half, lengthwise. If you’ve got 1 large eggplant, cut it in quarters. Slice each piece crosswise about ½ inch thick. Brush the slices lightly with the oil, set them on a sheet pan, then bake until the bottom sides have browned, about 15 minutes. Turn them over and brown the second side; this often takes less time, so check after about 8 minutes. When the eggplant is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 350°F.
To make the tomato sauce, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide skillet. When hot, add the onion, garlic and herbes de Provence (crushed first between the fingers), or the fresh marjoram. Stir to coat the onion with the oil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook slowly until it is soft, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the chopped fresh or canned tomatoes, raise the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has cooked off and the sauce is fairly thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To make the custard, whisk the eggs and stir in the ricotta, saffron and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Season with a few pinches of salt and some freshly ground pepper.
Choose an earthenware casserole with 2-inch sides and an 8-cup capacity. A larger pan, say an oval dish 8 inches wide at the center and about 12 inches long, allows the ingredients to spread to a thin layer along with the custard topping.
Spread a cup of the tomato sauce in the dish and then set down an overlapping layer of eggplant. Season it with salt and pepper. Scatter half the torn basil over the surface. Dab about ¼ cup of the sauce over the eggplant and then make another layer of eggplant, season with salt and pepper and the torn basil, and cover with the rest of the tomato sauce. Pour the custard over all and bake until it has gently swelled and is browned in places, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the gratin rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
About this recipe
Reprinted with permission from In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison, copyright © 2017. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.