Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant parmesan is one of those great Italian comfort foods—a layered casserole much like lasagna but with slices of globe eggplant taking the place of pasta.

The two things to keep in mind when cooking eggplant, especially firm globe eggplants, is that not only do eggplants hold onto moisture, they also absorb oil like a sponge. So if you’re not careful you can end up with something mushy and oily.

In this recipe, to tackle the first challenge we lightly salt the raw eggplant slices and let them sit out for a while. The salt helps draw moisture out of the eggplant. To deal with the oil absorption issue, instead of frying the breaded eggplant slices, we bake them in the oven, before assembling the casserole to be baked again.

The result? Wonderful! Cheesy, tomato-y eggplant parmesan that doesn’t weigh you down with too much water or oil.

Eggplant Parmesan

Recipe revised and updated Aug 18, 2014. Inspired by a recipe in the New York Times by chef Gabrielle Hamilton, recounting a recipe from her Italian ex-mother-in-law.

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 8

First cut the eggplant and salt the eggplant rounds. Then prep the rest of the ingredients while the eggplant rounds are releasing their moisture.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 lbs (about 2 large) eggplants
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

 

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove minced garlic (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), tomatoes diced, reserve juices
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

 

  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 4 eggs, beaten (more if needed)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (plus more to oil the sheet pans)
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/4-inch slices

Method

 

salt eggplant rounds

1 Slice the eggplants into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick rounds. Lay the eggplant slices out on a rack over a rimmed sheet pan (or on several layers of paper towels). Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant rounds lightly with salt. Let the eggplant rounds sit and release moisture for 2 hours.

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2 Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan on medium heat. Add the minced garlic and gently cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and their juices. Increase heat to bring to a simmer, lower heat to maintain a very low simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the minced basil and remove from heat.

3 Combine 1 1/2 cups of breadcrumbs with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, and place in a shallow bowl or rimmed dish. Set up your station so that you have flour in one shallow bowl, beaten eggs in another bowl, and the breadcrumb cheese mixture in another, in that order.

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4 Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spread a tablespoon of olive oil each over the bottom of two rimmed baking sheet pans. Pat dry the eggplant slices with paper towels. Working one at a time dredge the eggplant slices first in the flour, then dip in the beaten eggs, and then dredge in the breadcrumb parmesan cheese mixture. Place on oiled sheet pan. Drizzle a little oil over the top of each breaded eggplant round.

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5 Place breaded prepared eggplant slices in the oven. Cook for 18 to 20 minutes, turning the slices over at the half-way point, until they are nicely browned. Remove from oven, and let cool to touch.

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6 Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9x13-inch casserole dish. Place a third of the eggplant rounds in a single layer covering the sauce on the bottom of the pan.

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Layer half of the sliced mozzarella on top of the eggplant rounds. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.

Place another third of the eggplant rounds over the cheese. Spread 1 cup of the sauce over the eggplant rounds. Layer the rest of the sliced mozzarella over the sauce. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup of grated Parm.

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Add the remaining eggplant in a single layer on top of the cheese. Top with the remaining sauce and the remaining Parmesan.

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7 Bake uncovered at 350°F for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before cutting into to serve.

Links:

The Summer Cook; Ode to Joy: A Trip to Alda's Kitchen

Eggplant Parmesan

18 Comments

  1. shuna fish lydon

    Eggplant parmesan is one of my favorite things to make and eat. I spend all day making the sauce and the other half frying the eggplant. But I have never drained the eggplant, I just cook it until quite dark. I do presalt, both sides, and I make sure that oil is really hot.

    It is one of the only things that I make that I do not tire of day after day that it stays around.

    An eggplant well done is something few people who say they dislike eggplant have had. i am all for re-introducing people to pleasure in unlikely places…

  2. foodie

    Instead of bread crumbs, it’s a good idea to use panko crumbs ( japanese bread crumbs)

  3. Athina

    This recipe looks basically like my eggplant parm recipe. recently someone told me they were surprised that I didn’t peel my eggplant- and said “isn’t it bitter?” I have never peeled my eggplant, Elise what are your thoughts on that? Is it traditional to keep the skin on? Do you notice a difference in flavor? I always thought the skin imparted a nice flavor.

    I’ve never peeled the eggplant either for this dish. Sometimes the peel can be a little tough, so I can see why someone might want to peel it. ~Elise

  4. Meagan

    This recipe produces a VERY tasty Eggplant Parmesan. I cook the sause on the stovetop, uncovered, for a long time, so that the final product isn’t watery. I dip the eggplant slices in egg first and breadcrumbs last – breadcrumbs then egg works fine. Salting the eggplant slices is critical. I use a mesh collander and make layers of eggplant, placing about a spoon-full of salt between each layer. I then place a heavy stack of plates on top of the eggplant layers and let it rest in the sink for at least two hours. When done soaking, just wipe the salt off – it will not be too salty. If you are worried about too much salt, you can run each slice under the tap to quickly rinse. Either way, dry the slices off with paper towels. Thanks for the recipe, Elise. I will be making this recipe for a potluck on Thursday.

  5. Demetra

    The best way to make sure you have a prefect eggplant parmesan is to sprinkle the eggplant slices with a little salt and then grill them for a few minutes. This also adds to the taste of the final dish with the smokey taste.
    You should go easy on the basil. another way i do it is to brush them with pesto before grilling. Yummy….

  6. Joy Morris

    I’ve been making Cook’s Illustrated’s Eggplant Involtini lately which is nice for the summertime because it’s mostly on the stovetop. When it starts getting cooler and I can stand to have the oven on longer I’ll be sure to give this a try.

    I’ve been enjoying the conversation on to peel or not to peel. I’ve been wondering about that myself. I’m coming away with “You don’t have to peel but it might be bitter and/or tough so you may wind up leaving it on the plate.”

  7. Sherry Copeland

    I am making this tonight with fresh tomatoes. Only a half recipe. Do you think this can be frozen?

    • Elise

      I don’t recommend freezing fresh tomatoes. But if you cook those fresh tomatoes into a sauce you should be okay with at least the sauce. As for freezing the whole thing? Hmm. I’m told it’s not a good idea to freeze cheese, and this casserole is loaded with cheese. That said, they sell plenty of frozen dinners with cheese in them. So your guess is as good as mine.

      • Sheila Schwartz

        I’ve been freezing eggplant parm and lasagne for years and they taste just as good as fresh. Cook them first and seal well with plastic wrapand then heavy duty foil. I usually do not put the last layer of cheese untill I heat it up.

        • Sherry Copeland

          Thanks to both of you! Elise, that was the best eggplant parm I have ever had! Sheila, I am going to try your hint of how to freeze.

  8. Natalie @ Paper & Birch

    This recipes sounds delightful Elise! Thanks for the tip on preventing mushy eggplant, that may explain my last attempt at an eggplant lasagne I made. Definitely going to be trying this! :)

  9. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    Such a yummy recipe. I love eggplant parm!

  10. sue/the view from great island

    This is such a classic, I haven’t made it in years. I just bought eggplant at the farmer’s market to make Moussaka…I might have to change my plans!

  11. CARMELA

    I prepare this very similar the way you do it ; ) delicious!!

    • Cat g

      They really over complicated this…just bake they sliced and breaded eggplant (no need to wait 2 hours). When it is finished, assemble the casserole and broil it till the cheese melts.

  12. Uly

    What’s really delicious, if you can get it, is to replace the regular mozzarella with smoked mozzarella. Mmmmmm!

    • Elise

      Hi Uly, I’ve used smoked mozzarella in dishes, and it is strong! If using in this recipe, I would recommend only swapping a small amount with the regular mozz.

  13. Kiersten

    My family’s solution to soggy eggplant was to peel and slice the eggplant and layer it in a colander. Then place a plate over the sliced eggplant, and place something heavy over top to press out the water. Let them sit like this overnight, and you will have no soggy eggplant ever again! :)

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