In English, there are many different words for the humble eggplant: aubergine (from the French), brinjal (South African and South Asian), guinea squash (Southern American) and finally melongene, the word used in the Caribbean. This last word sounds most like the Italian word for eggplant, which is melanzana (plural: melanzane).
Although the melanzana is often categorised as a vegetable, it is actually a fruit – or more specifically, a berry – by botanical definition. It is usually dark purple in colour but less common white varieties also exist. Because of its capacity to absorb oils and flavours into its spongy flesh, it is used quite frequently in Italian cuisine. Some of the most well-known are:
- la parmigiana di melanzane (often called just parmigiana): a baked dish from Sicily and Campania made with a sliced eggplant filling, cheese and tomato sauce
- la pasta alla Norma: a Sicilian pasta dish featuring fresh tomato, basil sauce and fried eggplant
- la caponata: an appetiser of eggplant, olives, and onions seasoned with herbs
When cooking with melanzane, it is recommended that you start by washing, draining and salting them, as doing so removes the bitterness from the pulp. They can be steamed, barbecued, roasted, pan fried, deep fried, curried and even pickled. Both the skin and seeds are edible, so whether or not you remove them is completely up to you!
Il mio cibo preferito è la melanzana.
My favourite food is eggplant.
È importante salare le fette di melanzana e lasciarle riposare.
It is important to salt the eggplant slices and let them sit.
Ho tagliato le melanzane a fette spesse.
I cut the eggplant into thick slices.