Italian Cooking Class, Grand Hyatt, Abu Dhabi

Our master chef, Marco Pistillo, on the right, with his assistant, Andre,
and the restaurant manager, Pedro, on the left.

I was fortunate to attend another cooking class, organized by the Expat Women’s group in Abu Dhabi. This time it was an Italian cooking class, in the Grand Hyatt’s Verso restaurant, where we learned to make Parmigiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmigiana).

Marco Pistillo, the Italian chef, initially gave us an overview of the history of the dish, the one his mother used to make. Here is the information he gave us:-

“Although eggplant parmesan is one of the widespread recipes in southern Italy, it is uncertain where the recipe actually comes from. Some believe it is Sicilian, while others claim that it comes from Naples or Parma. There are even contradicting theories on the origins of the name of the dish. People make the obvious connection with the city of Parma, or at least with Parmigiano Reggiano, but there is also a theory that the name comes from the Sicilian term parmiciana, which refers to the wooden blinds that are layered when closed – just like the layers of eggplant in the dish.

What is certain, however, is that the first recipe for eggplant parmesean was written by Vincenzo Corrado, the personal cook to various noble Neapolitan families between the 18th and 19th centuries and also the author of "Ïl Cuoco Galante”.

In his recipe, Corrado suggests layering the eggplant, however, the first recipe that is most similar to how the dish is made today was written by Ippolito Cavalcanti in his book, “Cucina Teorica-Pratica", in which he suggested alternating the layers of eggplant with cheese and tomato.”

Marco showed us how thick to slice the eggplant…

…and how it would look deep-fried

He followed this with demonstrating the layering of the eggplant, parmesan cheese and tomato sauce, to make the completed dish.

Our group watching the demonstration

Here is Marco Pistillo’s recipe (quantity depends on the size of the dish, but I have given his measures).

Passata (I give the quantities Marco uses)
2.5 kilos Tinned tomatoes
250g Sliced Onion
25g Chopped Garlic
100g Olive Oil
30g Salt
15g Sugar
Parmesan Cheese

1 Slice the eggplant into 1cm wide slices.
2 Sprinkle each side lightly with salt and leave to stand over a sink for about 30 minutes.
3 Rinse well and pat dry on paper towel.
4 While the eggplant is draining, prepare the passata. Drain the liquid from the tinned tomatoes and mash the tomatoes. Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer slowly for 1 hour while stirring, until the sauce has reduced slightly.
5 Spoon a small amount of the passata into the bottom of a deep baking dish.
6 Place a layer of eggplant over the top, then layer with sauce, cheese, eggplant and continue until all ingredients have been used.
7 Top with cheese.
8 Bake at 180C for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.

After watching Marco prepare his delicious -looking dish, we had lunch. Here are the dishes we were served:

Tomatoes with Cheese


Cheese and Walnut Salad.

Beef Slices with Rocket

Delicious Pizza

Eggplant Parmigiana – unfortunately, I was too busy eating and didn’t remember
to take the photo until it was too late.

We ended the meal with our choice of ice-cream

We had a fun day watching Marco prepare his dish, and the following lunch was so delicious, I, for one,  didn’t need to eat for the rest of the day.

Elizabeth Coughlan

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