As soon as eggplants show up at our CSA, I start putting eggplant parmesan on my menu plans. It’s just so good! And, every summer, I’m reminded that despite what I’d worked it up to be in my mind, making eggplant parm is really not difficult.
The internet has an infinite number of eggplant parmesan variations. I like to keep mine pretty simple, though there’s definitely room for adaptations if you’re in the mood. Feel free to use fresh herbs, homemade tomato sauce or a different type of breading or cheese. This recipe presents the basic ingredients and steps (and the way I make eggplant parm 99% of the time). All of the steps – salting, breading, pan frying and baking – are easy, but making eggplant parmesan does take a bit of time. Thankfully, most of the time is hands off and is well worth the investment for the final product. Even better, eggplant parmesan is a forgiving dish – no one expects it to look perfect and it doesn’t matter because breaded vegetables, tomato sauce and cheese is a combination that’s guaranteed to taste good. It’s okay if it’s a bit messy.
There is some debate about the necessity of salting eggplant. Certainly, I’m not going to show up in your kitchen and make you do it. Some people say that taking the time to salt eggplant removes bitterness, but others argue that modern eggplants aren’t really bitter anymore. I salt my eggplant slices in order to remove some of the liquid from the vegetable and my final dish; I’m always impressed by how much water pools up on the slices after they’ve been salted and sat for half an hour. But if you’re totally opposed to salting and want to save some time, go for it. And then leave a comment and let me know how it turned out.
- 1 pound eggplant about 1 medium
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- olive oil
- 24 ounces tomato sauce of your choosing
- 1 and 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese - reserve 1/2 cup for STEP XXX
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or use fresh herbs!
- optional: pasta to serve with the Eggplant Parmesan
- Peel and slice your eggplant into about 1/2 inch slices. Cover a flat surface (counter top, baking sheet, cooling rack, etc.) with paper towels or a kitchen towel and spread the eggplant slices on the towel in a single layer. Sprinkle each slice with salt and let rest for 30 minutes. This will remove some of the liquid from the eggplant.
- When the 30 minutes is almost over, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
- After the 30 minutes have passed, use paper towels or a kitchen towel to blot the eggplant and remove the water that has gathered on the tops of the slices.
- Add the flour to a bowl and dredge each slice of eggplant through the flour. Coat the eggplant on all sides and shake off any extra flour that doesn't stick.
- As the slices are coated with flour, add them to the pan of hot oil. Cook for about 3 minutes per side, then remove the slices to a paper towel-covered plate to cool slightly. This will need to be done in batches; continue until all the eggplant has been coated in flour and pan fried, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
- Coat the bottom of a 9x13 or similar sized baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce.
- Top the layer of sauce with a single layer of eggplant slices (picture 1 below). Sprinkle each slice with mozzarella cheese (picture 2 below), then use the back of a spoon to spread a layer of tomato sauce on top of each eggplant slice (picture 3 below).
- Repeat step 7 until all the eggplant slices are used, covering each layer with cheese and sauce. I usually get 2 layers. Cover the last layer with all the remaining sauce, 1/2 cup reserved mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (picture 4 above).
- Bake the eggplant Parmesan uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the tomato sauce is bubbly. While waiting, prepare the pasta according to package instructions.