I·ATE Food Term of The Week: Parmigiana di Melanzane 

Parmigiana melanzane

Parmigiana di melanzane (also known as melanzane alla parmigiana or simply parmigiana) is one of the most famous and delicious Italian dishes.

Made with fried eggplant, which is then baked with tomato sauce, basil and cheese, the dish is included in the list of traditional Italian food products of the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies.

This list classifies the eggplant parmigiana as a typical dish of the regions of Campania, Sicily and Calabria.

But where does parmigiana actually come from?


The origin of parmigiana is quite controversial, as three regions claim its invention: Emilia-Roma

Some attribute the name of the dish to the Parmesan cheese or to the expression cucinare alla parmigiana (cooking the Parmesan way), i.e. by arranging vegetables in layers as it was typical for the inhabitants of the city of Parma.

Others believe that the name of the dish derives from the Sicilian term “parmiciana, which refers to the set of wooden slats which form window shutters and which would somewhat recall the disposition of fried eggplants.

Lastly, according to another theory, parmigiana has Neapolitan origins. Indeed, the first historical evidence of the recipe most similar to the one that we know nowadays appeared in 1839 in the book “Cucina teorico-pratica” by the Neapolitan cook Ippolito Cavalcanti.

So… who is right?

The eggplant is a vegetable that is thought to be native to India and was introduced in Italy during the 15th century, when the Arabs brought it to Sicily. Moreover, although parmigiana is well known and beloved all over Italy (as well as abroad), it is very popular especially in the Southern regions of the peninsula. Therefore, it would seem fair to say that it was invented there, probably taking inspiration from the Parmesan cooking style.


There are different versions of parmigiana.

The Sicilian one is the simplest, whereas in Naples eggplant is breaded with egg and flour and can be replaced by zucchini or artichokes, and in Calabria the recipe usually includes salami and boiled eggs.

There are also lighter versions, in which eggplants (or zucchini) are grilled and not fried. As for the cheese, apart from Parmesan, it is possible to use scamorza, provola, caciocavallo or mozzarella.

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La Cucina Italiana. 2017. Le melanzane alla parmigiana: siciliane, emiliane o napoletane? [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.lacucinaitaliana.it/news/in-primo-piano/storia-e-origine-delle-melanzane-alla-parmigiana/ [Accessed 10/02/2022]

ReD Academy. La parmigiana di melanzane, origini e storia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://redacademy.it/origini-parmigiana-melanzane/ [Accessed 10/02/2022]

Written by Concenzio Maletta

Concenzio is a Schuman Trainee at the Italian Translation Unit of the European Parliament. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Intercultural and Linguistic Mediation and a Master’s degree in Specialised Translation, and he speaks Italian, English and German.