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Slow Cooker Eggplant Parmigiana


A vegetarian winner, or the best side dish for almost any meal!
The trick with this beautiful recipe here is the slow cooker-style method – the flavours meld while the bocconcini becomes the most amazing texture of gooey, melting, stringy cheese- which if cooked at any higher temp, would have melted away too much and lost its form.
I adore this dish. And it freezes and reheats so well that a big batch is wonderful.
I have actually brought the dish to a large lunch party of 12 -  cooked the day before then refrigerated, carried it in the slow cooker for lunch the next day, warmed up in the kitchen on high for an hour, and then straight to the table – it disappeared! Alongside the wonderful overnight pork roast with fennel and green olives, with mashed potato. 
You could serve it with pasta as a ready-made sauce, or with a piece of grilled chicken or fish. A versatile Italian favourite.
Recipe based on the one from the Women's Weekly "Slow cooker comfort food".
Pictured: Slow cooker eggplant parmigiana
Tomato Sauce-
1 tbsp light olive oil
1 medium brown onion, chopped finely
2 – 3 garlic cloves, crushed
400g canned cherry tomatoes, or diced
1 cup (260g) bottles passata
¼ tsp chilli flakes, a pinch more if you like it spicy
To assemble -
3 medium eggplants, sliced thickly (1 ½ cm thick)
¼ cup plain flour for dusting eggplant 
150ml light olive oil
2/3 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
400g bocconcini cheese – or 2 x 180g tubs, torn in half
2/3 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
½ tsp sweet paprika

Make the tomato sauce first  - heat the 1 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, adding the onion to cook and soften for a few minutes. Do not brown the onion. Add the garlic for a minute, then quickly stir in the tomatoes, passata and chilli flakes. Rinse the tin out and add the water and remaining tomato juice. Let the mix bubble away for 5 minutes to thicken a little and the flavours to combine and develop. Then turn off heat. Have a large spook ready for assembling.
Place the flour in a small bowl and pat each wide side of the eggplant in flour to coat, dust off excess.
Heat a few tbsp oil in a wide frying pan at medium heat, fill with as many eggplant slices as possible and cook til brown on one side (3 minutes or so), as you turn each eggplant add a splash of oil for the other side to cook in and brown. Repeat in batches. Drain on paper towel. 
Layer a third of the eggplant at the bottom of the slow cooker, season well. Top with 1/3 tomato mixture, sprinkle 1/3 basil and bocconcini. Repeat 2 more times.
Top with parmesan cheese, sprinkle with the paprika.
Cover with the lid, cook on low for 6 hours.

Serves 6 as a main or 12 as a side dish
Pictured: Slow cooker eggplant parmigiana ready for cooking