Eggplant parm holds a place near and dear to my heart. Some dishes come and go, but this is a meal that has been consistently on my dinner table since I can remember. This dish is usually a mainstay for a vegetarian who eats Italian. A dish with substance that is guaranteed to fill you up–I bet most of you are nodding in agreement. So, a logical place to get a good eggplant parm dish? Ask a vegetarian. After all, it is usually our only option as an entree at most special occasions (besides mushy pasta primavera) and it was also our sole choice on the menu of basically every restaurant in the 1990s.
Tip #1: Making your own sauce is crucial to having the most delicious eggplant parmigiana you’ve ever tasted and don’t worry because it is super easy to make your own marinara. This red sauce recipe that I am providing to you will come in handy more than you can imagine. Need to whip up a really nice meal in a pinch? Spaghetti with this homemade marinara sauce is the answer. Want to throw in some fresh veggies? Go for it! So healthy and so delicious- the two most important things in a meal… but maybe not that order.
Another word to the wise: Choose firm, smooth eggplants. It completely makes a difference in flavor. If you are using Japanese eggplant and making this dish more as an appetizer, you don’t have to salt them right after slicing, just go ahead and dip them right into the egg mixture and proceed accordingly. Some people don’t skin their eggplant, but I prefer to do so for this recipe. The skin sometimes has a bitter flavor and can be a tough texture, which could potentially ruin your whole dish.
It is more of a shallow fry than a deep fry when you place your eggplant in the pan. Make sure that your eggplant sizzles when it reaches the pan and make sure both sides look golden brown. The sound of that sizzle and the smells that come from your kitchen will make your mouth water. I make some extra pieces so I can munch on them while I am cooking and usually there is someone nearby who wants to snag a few pieces as well when they come hot and fresh off of the pan (cough… Matthew Wolfson… cough).
The mixture of parmesan and mozzarella cheeses really puts this dish over the top. If you are feeling ambitious, you can make some extra sauce and throw some linguini into a pot of salted boiling water and add some pasta to go along with your dish. Not always necessary, but delicious none-the-less.
I make a few different variations of eggplant parmigiana, but this one is classic, incredibly tasty, and a total crowd pleaser.
- Marinara Sauce:
3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 (28-ounce) cans tomato sauce (I recommend Contadina)
- 3 tablespoons freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves
- ½ tablespoon dried oregano
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 cups breadcrumbs (if using store-bought, buy plain, unseasoned or panko)
- 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp salt
- ¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 6 large eggs, beaten
- 2 medium eggplants (about 2 pounds), peeled and sliced into ½ -inch-thick rounds.
- ⅔rd cups extra-virgin olive oil
. ¾ pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
- 2. 1 cup grated parmesan
- 3. Fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
- Marinara Sauce:
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the onion and cook until soft.
- Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the canned tomato sauce. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally.
- Once it comes to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 25 to 30 minutes.
- Add the parsley, basil and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes longer.
- For the Eggplant:
Preheat the temperature of the oven up to 375 degrees.
- Place the breadcrumbs into a large shallow bowl. Add oregano, red pepper, 1 ½ teaspoons salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. In another medium shallow bowl, whisk the eggs with ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper added.
- Season each eggplant slice on both sides with salt and pepper, then dip it in the egg, and finally dredge it in the bread crumb mixture. Shake off any excess breading and transfer the eggplant to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
- Heat ½-inch of oil in 2 large straight-sided sauté pans over medium heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 385 degrees.
- Working in small batches, fry a few of the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, zucchini, and squash.
- Cover the bottom of a 13’’ x 9’’ baking dish with about ⅕ of the tomato sauce. Then, arrange ¼ of the eggplant, zucchini, and squash over the sauce.
- Cover the eggplant with fresh mozzarella, grated Parmesan and some of the basil. Repeat to make 4 layers. Top with sauce, fresh mozzarella and remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake until hot and just beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes. Top with basil leaves.