1Warm half the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes, or until golden brown and softened. Add the garlic and dried herbs, and cook for a further 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and sugar. Cook for another minute, until the sugar has dissolved and the tomato paste turns a slightly darker red. Deglaze the pan with the wine or marsala, stirring for about 1 minute to allow the alcohol to evaporate.
2Stir in the passata. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, then immediately reduce the heat to low. Cover and leave to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so the sauce doesn’t stick. Then add the stock and mix well. Remove from heat, season to taste and set aside.
3While the sauce is simmering, prepare the eggplants. Heat your barbecue to medium-high; alternatively, use a chargrill pan. Trim the ends from each eggplant, then slice lengthways into 1 cm strips, or horizontally into round slices. Lightly brush each side of the eggplant with the remaining olive oil, then grill in batches for about 5 minutes on each side, or until slightly charred and tender enough for a knife to pierce the middle easily.
4Preheat the oven to 180°C if fan-forced (200°C if conventional). Lightly grease a 25 cm round (or similar) baking dish.
5Ladle one-quarter of the tomato sauce mixture over the bottom of the dish, then add enough eggplant slices to cover in a single layer. Sprinkle with one-third of the cheese, a few basil leaves and one-third of the breadcrumbs. Continue layering with two more rounds of tomato sauce, eggplant, cheese, basil and breadcrumbs—making sure you finish it off with tomato sauce!
6Sprinkle with the topping breadcrumbs to create a crust. Drizzle with the olive oil and pop the whole thing in the oven.
7Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the breadcrumb crust is lightly golden. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for a few minutes to let the layers fuse; it will be molten hot!
8Use a very sharp knife to cut the eggplant bake into wedges. Garnish with extra cheese and basil leaves and tuck in.
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