Melanzane a funghetto

Eggplant: black gold

Eggplant, aubergine, melanzana: it doesn’t matter what you call it the taste is always the same. But what an easy vegetable to cook badly. When cooked badly, it’s a bitter, rubbery mess; when cooked well, it’s culinary alchemy. The secret? Not to undercook.

The taste test

There’s a tipping point with eggplant where the colour changes from pale and opaque to rich and slightly translucent. At that same point, the flavour changes from bland to sublime with a piquancy like mature cheese. I tend to judge a restaurant (or even home chef) by their ability to cook eggplant. It’s not hard but you need to know when not to stop.

eggplant funghetto
Melanzane a funghetto

Melanzane a funghetto

Melanzane a funghetto (eggplant cooked like mushrooms) is a great classic of Neapolitan cuisine. As with most southern Italian recipes, the eggplant is fried in olive oil to get it to the right consistency. For me, this has two problems: firstly, it can result in a slightly greasy consistency to the dish, if not done well; secondly, eggplants absorb a huge amount of oil during frying, so there are a lot of hidden calories.

eggplant funghetto
… on bruschetta

The recipe

My version of the dish cuts down on the amount of oil used through roasting the eggplant rather than frying. If you use the setting with heat from the top on your oven, you can create the same texture as frying. Make sure to shake the pan a few times during cooking to stop them burning on one side though.

eggplant funghetto
… and on pasta

Serving suggestions

Traditionally, this dish is a contorno (a vegetable side). But it can be eaten in a variety of ways. You could serve it as part of an antipasto platter, as a bruschetta loaded onto some toasted Italian bread, you could use it as a pasta sauce (as a Roman friend of mine’s mother does), or even use it as a pizza topping. It’s best left to cool down overnight and then served at room temperature. Buon appetito!

Melanzane al funghetto

This light version of a Neapolitan classic uses roasted eggplant instead of fried. The result is the same in taste but with a lot fewer calories. Print This
Serves: 4
Rating: 4.0/5
( 5 voted )


  • 1kg eggplants

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 20 cherry tomatoes

  • 100ml (1/2 cup) water

  • 1 tablespoon Aceto Balsamico di Modena

  • 15 leaves of fresh basil



  1. Wash and cut the eggplant into cubes of about 1 1/2 cm (1 inch). Add the salt and mix well. 
  2. Place it in a colander over a bowl. Put a piece of kitchen towel, a plate, and a bag of sugar on top to weight them down. Leave for one hour for the bitter juices to come out. 
  3. Rinse the eggplant and dry thoroughly on kitchen towels. 
  4. Heat the oven to 220°C (430°F). 
  5. Place the eggplant in an oven dish and add 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix to coat the pieces of eggplant in the oil. 
  6. Place in the oven and roast for 30 mins. 
  7. Cut the tomatoes in half. 
  8. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a saucepan, add the clove of garlic, and heat gently for two minutes. 
  9. Add the tomatoes and cook for about five minutes, squashing the tomatoes as to release the juice. 
  10. Add the eggplant, water, and balsamic vinegar. Cook for about five minutes or until the water is absorbed.
  11. Allow to cool completely before serving.
  12. Garnish with fresh basil. 

6 thoughts on “Melanzane a funghetto”

  1. Aubergines are my very favourite veg! Agree about the tendency to undercook, especially in the form of horribly dry and chewy grilled slices on pizza. Luckily our new local does a pizza with melanzane a funghetto!

    Interested to see you still purge them. I read at some point that varieties grown now don’t need it, so I stopped and haven’t noticed a difference. Do you? Although P finds some of the types we buy here excessively seedy, especially in the later summer.

  2. Wow! I just tried your recipe this evening made from all locally grown eggplants and cherry tomatoes. I live in far northern California that looks like Friuli! It was delicious! Thank you for sharing.

      1. Luca Marchiori

        Thanks! Glad you’re glad I’m back! I’ve missed interacting with my readers.

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