I think liking eggplant parmesan is a sign of maturity. It so often sits neglected on the menu of your favorite Italian restaurant, as the spaghetti and meatballs, chicken parmesan and lasagna all steal the spotlight. But it only takes that one night out, where you decide to try something other than your standard go-to order and give eggplant parm a try. And then, provided you are in an establishment that knows what it’s doing, you realize what you’ve been missing. Such was my experience. After years of ravioli, pasta and meatballs, one day I decided to give eggplant parmesan a try. I’m not sure what motivated my choice. It certainly can’t be because I thought I was saving any calories- there’s plenty of cheese and carbs to be had in eggplant parm. I can only chalk it up to maturity. I finally decided to step outside of my red checkered tablecloth comfort zone and was handsomely rewarded. And now, my love for this classic has grown to the point that I’m really hoping maturity is not a nicer way of saying “old”.
Of course, there’s always the chance to you will visit an establishment that does not know what it’s doing when it comes to this dish, and as an eggplant lover that breaks my heart. I’ve had soggy eggplant. I’ve had deep fried eggplant. I’ve had eggplant where the coating slides off in one fell swoop (why?!) The obvious solution is to have a killer recipe for eggplant parmesan at your fingertips so that you are sure to enjoy tender, cheesy eggplant perfection when the mood strikes. THIS is the recipe you (and I) need. It is decadent, cheesy and oh so delicious.
Now, there are a few steps to this recipe and it is not super quick. But, none of the steps are complicated and you can assemble it ahead of time and bake when you need it. So with a little planning you can have delicious eggplant parmesan any time you wish.
The most important step to this whole recipe is the one that takes the longest but is also the easiest. Eggplant naturally holds a lot of moisture. The excess moisture can lead to mushy texture and an inability for the coating to adhere to the eggplant. This recipe calls for you to liberally salt the eggplant slices and place them in a colander for an hour or so. The salt will draw the excess moisture from the eggplant, which will remedy both the textural and coating concerns. Don’t worry about ingesting too much salt- you wipe off the salt along with the excess moisture before cooking. Use this time to take care of other kitchen tasks (meal prep!) and to set up an assembly line for the rest of the recipe.
If you plan to make this ahead, prepare the dish through assembly (layering the eggplant, sauce and cheese), then cover with foil. I haven’t tried freezing it at this point, but I’m sure it would keep well if tightly wrapped. From the fridge, I would allow to rest at room temp about half an hour before baking.
So, if you know a fellow mature eggplant loving soul or are looking to turn someone into a convert, I suggest making this recipe as a special treat. I’ve gotten rave reviews from both eggplant lovers and the eggplant-averse alike- you will, too!
- 2 medium eggplant, sliced into 1/4″ thick slices
- 1 cup flour
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 4 eggs
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2/3 cup olive oil, plus more as necessary
- 16 oz fresh mozzarella, torn into 1 inch pieces
- 8 oz shredded mozzarella
- 3- 3 1/2 cups marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup shredded basil
- kosher salt and pepper
Begin by salting the eggplant to remove excess moisture. Sprinkle eggplant slices generously with salt and place in colander (or two). Allow to sit in colander for 60-90 minutes to allow moisture to be drawn from eggplant. When ready to proceed with recipe, use paper towels to wipe moisture and salt from eggplant.
Preheat oven to 375.
Set up your dredging station with three wide, shallow dishes, such as pie plates. In the first dish, mix flour with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. In second dish, whisk together eggs and milk. In third dish, mix panko breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Dip each eggplant slice first into the flour, then the egg/milk mixture and then the breadcrumbs. Place eggplant slices on rimmed baking sheet once they have been dipped.
In large nonstick skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Working a few eggplant slices at a time, sauté eggplant approximately 2 minutes per side until golden brown.
Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce across the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish. Place eggplant slices in single layer. Top each slice with a dollop of sauce and a piece of fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle about half of the shredded mozzarella over the top. Place remaining eggplant slices in another layer and top again with sauce, fresh mozzarella and shredded cheese.
Bake eggplant for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Turn on broiler and broil an additional 5 minutes (keeping a close eye so dish does not burn) until cheese is browned. Top with shredded basil and serve.
If making ahead, prepare recipe as far as layering the eggplant, sauce and cheese. Cover with foil. Allow to sit at room temperature 30 minutes before baking.