I saw this recipe on Food and Wine about a week ago and figured it would be an excellent thing to make on my long weekend. However, by the time I got to it, one of my two large eggplants had gone soft, so I had to half the recipe. I didn’t follow this exactly on the measurement front and I’m sure mine was way cheesier than it was supposed to be, but I loved it! It was perfectly comforting and it didn’t even have any meat!
(This picture is from food and wine. Mine wasn’t nearly this elegant, but not bad.)
My boyfriend put it well when he said as we were eating it, when I look at eggplant, it just looks like something I’m not supposed to be eating. I totally get that. It is generally soft and rather grey when people cook it. And, in this baked Parmesan dish, it was still those things. But, despite it’s weird appearance, I loved the way it tasted. It seems almost meaty in its richness and texture. And I think the layering of the eggplant in this dish make it seem almost like a lasagna.
I have finally found a reason to like eggplant!
It was also much easier than I expected it to be. This is a pretty easy weeknight dinner. Sure, it takes a little time to fry all that eggplant, but it was over with pretty quickly. Just start it early. Since mine was a half recipe, it only took 30 min in the oven, but you want to keep that in mind when you are planning out time. I also just used panko instead of real bread crumbs because it is easy and was still satisfyingly crunchy. Also, I don’t see the point of pureeing the sauce. I skipped that step.
However, as an added bonus, the website says you can make it a day ahead and refrigerate it. But, it says to bring to room temperature before you toss it in the oven.
Eggplant Parmesan with Crisp Bread Crumb Topping
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus about 2 cups for frying
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
- Two 28-ounce cans whole, peeled Italian tomatoes, drained
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 8 small eggplants (1/2 pound each), cut lengthwise 1/2 inch thick
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped basil
- 1 pound lightly salted fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced and torn into small pieces
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
- In a large skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Using your hands, crush the whole tomatoes into the skillet. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is very thick, about 25 minutes. Transfer the tomato sauce to a food processor and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, in a very large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of olive oil. Season the eggplant slices with salt and pepper. Working in several batches, cook the eggplant over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden on both sides, about 8 minutes per batch; add more olive oil to the skillet between batches. Drain the eggplant slices on paper towels.
- Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce in a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Arrange one-third of the fried eggplant slices in the baking dish and sprinkle all over with 1 tablespoon of the chopped basil. Top with one-third of the torn mozzarella and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat this layering twice. Sprinkle the bread crumbs all over the top of the eggplant Parmesan. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the top of the eggplant Parmesan is golden and the tomato sauce is bubbling. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.