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I’ll wager a bet: if you haven’t eaten eggplant parmesan, you have at least heard the name. Yeah? I thought so!
I love anything that uses vegetables that are in season and plentiful in the garden. And right now, that just happens to be eggplant. The problem with many eggplant recipes is that they don’t allow the vegetable to be the star of the dish. Instead, the eggplant is often breaded and fried to provide a crispy texture. But this also tends to subtract from their flavor. What’s the point of eggplant if it’s not actually enjoyed?
This recipe is a fresh take on an old classic. It’s not at all traditional, but a great way to enjoy that ever-so-plentiful eggplant!
What is eggplant parmesan?
At its simplest form, eggplant parmesan is a casserole: layers of sauce, eggplant, and cheese, all intermixed together. Once baked, it’s a lot like a lasagna. But what’s great about this recipe is that eggplant has the ability to retain an almost meat-like structure once baked and works as a perfect substitute where we’d normally use pasta.
And while the eggplant is able to prove itself, it would be nothing without a full-flavored sauce between each layer. For this fresh take on a homemade sauce, I used plenty of fresh herbs and chopped whole tomatoes to maintain a bright and balanced finish.
What makes this recipe unique?
Traditional eggplant parmesan recipes will dredge slices of eggplant in an eggwash followed by a good dunk in breadcrumbs. Some newer recipes will just bake the dredged eggplant while others sauté or pan-fry them. Once in a while, that is delicious, but I’m often in the mood for lighter dishes especially when eggplant is ripe in the summer.
This recipe roasts the eggplant slices at high heat until browned. After browning, they’re topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and roasted until the cheese is golden and crisp. This is the perfect way to get a crust and add impeccable flavor without the breading or frying. Genius if I do say so myself!
Watch how to make this eggplant parmesan
- 2 ¼ lb eggplant sliced ½-inch thick
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (approximately)
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella sliced into ½-inch pieces
For the sauce
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 ½ tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 28-oz cans whole or crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup chopped basil roughly chopped
- 3 tbsp oregano roughly chopped
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Grease a 9×13 baking dish and set aside.
- Lay the pieces of eggplant on two baking sheets and drizzle with 1 tbsp oil. Flip over the pieces and drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp of oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in the preheated oven until browned, 15-20 minutes. Once browned, remove from the oven and place approximately 1 tbsp (adjust for the size of the slice) of Parmesan cheese on each slice. Return to oven and roast until the cheese is melted and golden, 3-5 minutes.
- While the eggplant is roasting, prepare the sauce. Heat 1 ½ tbsp olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan. Add the onion and salt. Sauté until the onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir and sauté for 1 minute. Add the cans of tomatoes. Break up or mash the tomatoes, if using whole, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half, 25-35 minutes. After the sauce is reduced, add the basil and oregano and remove the sauce from the heat.
- To assemble, cover the bottom of the baking dish with ½ cup of sauce. Layer with half of the prepared eggplant, shingling or cutting pieces as necessary. Layer half of the sliced mozzarella on top of the eggplant, ripping it into pieces for an even layer. Pour half of the remaining prepared sauce on top then repeat the layers one more time, ending with the remaining sauce on the top.
- Turn down the oven to 375°F. Bake until the sauce is bubbling throughout, about 1 hour.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Allow it to rest for 20 minutes before serving to redistribute the juices.