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.
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
First cut the eggplant and salt the eggplant rounds. Then prep the rest of the ingredients while the eggplant rounds are releasing their moisture.
1 Slice and salt eggplant, let drain: 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.
2 Saut garlic, add tomatoes, simmer, add salt, pepper, basil: 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, breaking up the tomatoes as you add them to the pot. 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 Make breadcrumb Parmesan mixture, set up bowls for dredging with flour, egg, breadcrumbs: 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.
4 Dredge eggplant rounds in flour, breadcrumbs and egg top with olive oil: 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.
5 Bake eggplant rounds: Place breaded prepared eggplant slices in the oven. Cook for 18 to 20 minutes at 425°F, turning the slices over at the half-way point, until they are nicely browned. Remove from oven, and let cool to touch.
6 Layer sauce, eggplant rounds, cheeses in casserole dish: Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9×13-inch casserole dish. Place a third of the eggplant rounds in a single layer covering the sauce on the bottom of the pan.
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.
Add the remaining eggplant in a single layer on top of the cheese. Top with the remaining sauce and the remaining Parmesan.
7 Bake: Bake uncovered at 350°F for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before cutting into to serve.
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