Cooking with Nonna Francesca

Words and photo by Anthony Furci | @AnthonyRFurci

Illustration by Ying Wang | @yiingstagram

Ever wanted to cook like a nonna? Specifically, my nonna?

Now’s your chance!

Eggplant Parmigiana

You will need:

  • 2 large eggplants, or 5 to 6 small ones.
    (Note: can be substituted for zucchini if you like. We used both!)
  • Grated Parmesan & Mozzarella cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • Canola oil
  • Breadcrumbs
  • 3 eggs
  • Milk

For the sauce:
(You can use your own recipe, or buy your own sauce – whichever is easiest for you. This is the way nonna does it.)

  • 1kg tomatoes
  • 1 cups water
  • 1-2 onions
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Bicarb soda


  1. Wash and peel the tomatoes. Then, fry the onion/s, until lightly brown.
  2. Place the tomatoes in a pot with the water, and add a pinch of bicarb soda.
    (Note: If the tomatoes are fresh, you won’t need the bicarb.)
  3. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the tomatoes.
    Add the onion/s if they’re ready, and a dash of basil.
  4. Let it sit on medium heat for about an hour and a half, or until the oil begins to rise.
    Stir with a wooden spoon every 15 minutes or so. 

Nonna: “More cook, more taste good!”

To put it all together…

  1. Slice the eggplants.
    Not too thick, but not too thin either – about a finger’s width.
  2. Place the sliced eggplants in a strainer or two (depending on how many slices you have), and wash them.
  3. Place a paper towel and a face-down plate over the washed eggplant inside the strainer/s, and let sit for about 15 minutes – to absorb the moisture.
  4. Fill a pan about a quarter full with canola oil.
    Let sit on high heat.
  5. Crack the three eggs into a bowl.
    Add salt and pepper, and a dash of milk.
    Beat with a fork until yellow.
  6. Pour the breadcrumbs into a separate bowl.
  7. Dip the sliced eggplant into the egg, then coat in breadcrumbs.
    Place into pan to fry until golden brown, then place on a plate to the side.
    (If you’ve given up and decided you just want to make eggplant fritters, feel free to stop here!)
  8. Spread the sauce on the bottom of a baking tray, then cover the bottom layer of the tray in eggplant slices.
  9. Cover the slices with another layer of sauce, then put the mozzarella and parmesan on top.
  10. Repeat – like lasagne. (We made 2 layers worth.)Preheat oven to 190C/170C (fan-forced/conventional).
  11. Place tray on top shelf. They’ll only take about 15 minutes.

Nonna: “If it comes good – that’s the recipe!”


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