This is the perfect eggplant parmesan recipe, where crispy edges of the baked eggplant peak through light layers of a simple homemade tomato sauce and irresistible melted mozzarella cheese. One bite and it will be your family’s new go-to recipe!
We are in eggplant overload!
In the past 2 weeks, our little garden has yielded 7 gorgeous eggplant and by this weekend, we should have another 3 or 4 ready to harvest. I think the Epsom salt we used this year has been working its magic.
It’s insane and I hope you’re ready for some fantastic eggplant recipes in the next couple of weeks!
In all honesty, I’ve been wanting to share this recipe with you since last summer after having made it numerous times in the past year, but I could never get my photography world to align with the eggplant parm gods.
Basically, all of my earlier photos of this recipe have sucked.
In short, this is the perfect eggplant parmesan recipe where crispy edges of the baked eggplant peak through light layers of a simple homemade tomato sauce and irresistible melted mozzarella cheese.
A New Way to Make Eggplant Parm
The breaded eggplant is baked in similar fashion to these baked oven fries, where you’ll bake the breaded eggplant on hot, olive oil-covered baking sheet. This method mimics the way we traditionally shallow-fry eggplant for eggplant parmesan but it’s WAY easier!
While we all know that making baked eggplant parmesan tends to be a little labor-intensive on the front end, how could you go wrong with the oven doing all of the hard work? This method prevents you from standing over a pan of hot oil in an already too-hot kitchen in the middle of summer.
That’s always a big win for me!
To Peel or Not to Peel
Some people have asked me if you have to peel eggplant before you cook it. And the best answer I can give you is NO. There’s no need to peel eggplant before you cook it. There’s a couple of reasons for this.
First, the peel provides the eggplant with some structure. Without the peel, the eggplant just becomes a sloppy mess.
And second, there is fiber in the peel.
How to Freeze Baked Eggplant
The last time we made this eggplant parm recipe, we ended up baking way too many eggplant rounds. So we froze the extra cooled rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet then tossed them in a freezer bag for the next time an eggplant parmesan craving arises.
Alternatively, the baked eggplant rounds by themselves could lend themselves to a myriad of other eggplant dishes like pizza, sandwiches or panini with fresh veggies and garlic aioli, or eggplant stacks with roasted red peppers and goat cheese.
Oooo!! Or eggplant slices topped with a poached egg for breakfast or a light lunch! Yes!!
What Goes Well with Eggplant Parm?
To me, this eggplant parm is definitely a stand alone type of meal. It’s hearty and filling and I’ve never thought I was missing anything by not serving a side dish with it.
However, if you’re planning to serve this eggplant dish to guests, you may want a little something on the side to round out the meal. Either this house salad or my Greek salad would be nice salads to start the meal.
You get the idea! Now, go make this eggplant parm and come back to thank me later.
Looking for other ways to use up summer eggplant? Try these!
For the eggplant:
- 2 medium eggplant (about 2 lbs) cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
- 1 tbsp Kosher salt
- 4 cups Italian breadcrumbs
- 1 cup grated Parmesan (about 2 oz)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- 6 tbsp vegetable oil
For the tomato sauce (optional - can use your own or jarred sauce in a pinch):
- 28 oz pureed or crushed tomatoes
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tbsp)
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
- ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
- Salt and ground pepper
- 8 oz whole or part-skim mozzarella, shredded (2 cups)
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 oz)
- A big handful of fresh basil leaves, for garnish
- To make the eggplant: In a large bowl, toss half of the eggplant slices and 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt; transfer salted eggplant to colander set over bowl. Repeat with remaining eggplant and salt. Let stand until eggplant releases about 2 tablespoons liquid, 30 to 45 minutes. Arrange eggplant slices on a triple layer of paper towels; cover with a triple layer of paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible, then wipe off excess salt.
- While eggplant is draining, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-thirds of the oven, place rimmed baking sheets on both racks, and preheat oven to 425° F.
- In a pie plate or shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Combine flour and 1 teaspoon pepper in large zipper-lock bag; shake to combine. Beat eggs in second pie plate. Place 8 to 10 eggplant slices in bag with flour, dip in eggs, let excess egg run off, then coat evenly with breadcrumb mixture. Set breaded slices on wire rack set over baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant.
- Remove preheated baking sheets from oven; add 3 tablespoons oil to each sheet, tilting to coat evenly with oil. Place half of breaded eggplant on each sheet in single layer; bake until eggplant is well browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating baking sheets after 10 minutes, and flipping eggplant slices with wide spatula after 20 minutes. Do not turn off oven.
- To make the sauce: Heat olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is light golden, about 3 minutes; stir in tomatoes. Bring sauce to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until slightly thickened and reduced, about 15 minutes. Stir in basil and season to taste.
- To assemble and bake: Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Layer in half of eggplant slices, overlapping slices to fit; distribute 1 cup sauce over eggplant; sprinkle with half of mozzarella. Layer in remaining eggplant and dot with 1 cup sauce, leaving majority of eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp. Sprinkle with ½ cup Parmesan and remaining mozzarella.
- Bake until bubbling and cheese is browned, 13 to 15 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, scatter basil over top, and serve, passing remaining tomato sauce separately.
This is not a quick eggplant parmesan recipe but it is worth the wait and work in every way possible. You can absolutely use your own sauce, either homemade or jarred, but if you're up for it, try this 15-minute recipe - it's truly excellent.
adapted from The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated via Ezra Pound Cake
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