Later, the eggplant casserole spread across the country, taking on a version of its own in each region. Regardless of its true origins and the many different takes on the classic recipe, parmigiana di melanzane remains Southern Italian comfort food at its best, and is one of the most popular Italian dishes today.
Found throughout southern Italy, parmigiana di melanzane is a type of gratinated vegetable casserole traditionally made of fried or grilled slices of eggplant layered with basil-flavored tomato sauce and topped with one or more cheeses, such as mozzarella, pecorino Siciliano, scamorza, and caciocavallo Silano.
Contrary to popular belief, parmigiana has nothing to do with parmigiano Reggiano cheese, even though it is used in many recipes as it makes for a crunchier crust. Nor, in fact, does it have any connection with the city of Parma whatsoever. In fact, the name of this scrumptious summer dish supposedly stems from parmisciana, the word for “Persian” in the Sicilian dialect, and it is often suggested that the word is rooted in the Arabic badhnajan or Turkish patlıcan, both of which mean “eggplant”.
Although the eggplant was introduced to Italy by the Arabs as early as the 8th century, the parmigiana we know today may have originated in Sicily at around the 16th century, when tomatoes were first brought to Italy from the New World by the Spaniards.