Aubergine inspired by The Belmond Hotel Cipriani

21st June 2017

I was in Italy at the end of May to take a trip on the incredible Venice Simplon Orient Express train.  I was in Venice a few days before to do some important recipe and restaurant research and I was lucky enough to go to the Belmond Hotel Cipriani for lunch.  The head chef Davide Bestto creates unfussy dishes of the highest quality and I devoured one of his baked aubergine dishes that was stuffed with a local Venetian cheese and tomatoes.  I have been dreaming of this delicious recipe ever since and I have created my own version using mozzarella and it only takes 30 minutes to make plus 5-10 minutes under the grill.  This is a great dinner for two with a crunchy green salad!

Grazie to the Cipriani!

Serves 2


1 medium to large aubergine, sliced in half and the flesh carefully cut out.

4 garlic cloves

2 tbsp tomato puree

2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tin cherry tinned tomatoes (or plum except cherry are a little sweeter)

2 tbsp grated parmesan

handful fresh basil

1/2 a ball of buffalo mozzarella, roughly torn into small pieces

1 litre vegetable/sunflower oil

sea salt and black pepper

Preheat the grill and line a baking tray with baking parchment.  In a large saucepan add the vegetable oil and bring to a high heat.  Salt the inside of the aubergine and leave for 5 minutes.  Roughly chop up the flesh of the aubergine into cubes and set a frying pan to a medium to high heat.  Add the olive oil followed by the aubergine cubes.  Mix everything around the pan for a few minutes just to gently colour before grating in the garlic cloves and cook for another 2 minutes.  Next add the tomato puree and stir for another minute before pouring in the tinned tomatoes.  Bring to a boil and then down to a simmer.

While this cooks, use kitchen roll to pat the aubergine halves dry and remove the salt.  Drop a pinch of flour into the hot oil and if it sizzles you can carefully lower one half into the oil or if there is room add both halves.  They will need to be covered in the oil and will be ready in about 4-5 minutes or until golden inside.  When ready, fish them out and lay onto kitchen towel and dab away the excess oil.  Next place them onto the baking tray cut-side up.  Go back and season the sauce with roughly torn basil. salt, pepper and parmesan.  Mix together and taste to check the seasoning and that the aubergine pieces are cooked.  Spoon the sauce into the aubergine halves and stop when it reaches the top.  You will be left with a little extra sauce that can be used for pasta for another meal.  Dot the torn mozzarella on top and sprinkle over more parmesan.  Place over the grill for about 5-10 minutes until the top is golden and crisp.  I sprinkled over some fresh oregano in the photo but more basil will be fine!

Eat straight away!  You can make this the day before and do the grilling/cheese just before you want to eat it!

Check where I got my inspiration!


  1. Kristina says:

    Hello! Thank you for this great idea with aubergines!
    I have a couple of questions for preparing the aubergine cases:
    1) Should the same principle be followed as in your Fancy parmigiana recipe (1/2 cm of flesh next to the skin)? Is there a specific technique you use to make sure you don’t pierce the skin?
    2) When frying the aubergines how do you make sure they don’t soak up the oil too much? I presume it’s the oil temperature that’s important. I was researching a bit and apparently some people recommend spreading a thin layer of whisked egg white over the flesh before frying helps to reduce the amount of oil soaked up. Have you maybe tried this before?
    Very old school – but your beautifully looking page is not really printer friendly.

    1. NinaFood says:

      Hi Kristina,
      Great to hear from you! Happy you are going to give the aubergine a try.
      1) Yes follow the same as in the ‘fancy aubergine’ cut 1cm or less near the skin. Try using a small sharp knife and you sort of curve round as you cut so as to not piece the skin and you can remove the excess bits by scooping them out with a spoon.
      2) They do soak up some oil I’m afraid but you can dust them in flour if you like which helps but then they are not gluten-free. You can also try with rice flour but it doesn’t colour in the same way and just watch to avoid burning. You need to really dab them with a paper towel after frying to remove as much of the oil as possible.

      Good luck and hope you enjoy it. Tag me in photo if you’re on Instagram (@antoninaparker)

      Nina xxx

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