Eggplant Parmesan, and eggplant in general, is one of those things that I didn’t really like until I was an adult…like almost 30. But in my defense, I never really tried it until then, so I didn’t know if I liked it or not. It just so happens that eggplant is in season right now, so I’ll be taking advantage of that at the Farmer’s Market!
This recipe really isn’t that hard at all, and it’s made healthier than the traditional eggplant parmesan by roasting it in the oven. It still has that nice crispy texture on the outside, and then that smooth eggplant yumminess on the inside. I had some basic marinara sauce in the freezer that I warmed up to go with this, along with some whole wheat pasta. Many times, you’ll see the eggplant parmesan fried and then submerged into sauce, covered in cheese, and then baked. My way is easier, quicker, and healthier. I just serve the baked eggplant parmesan with a little of the sauce on top, followed by a little parmesan or mozzarella cheese, which melts because of the hot sauce, all on a bed of whole wheat pasta. Really, it’s a nice little weeknight meal, perfect for Meatless Monday! The recipe makes 2-4 servings, depending on how hungry you are.
When you work with eggplant, after slicing it, it is important to lay it out on paper towels and then salt both sides. This draws out some of the moisture, keeping it from getting soggy, but also draws out bitterness, if there is any. Just leave it sit for about 20 minutes and then take a clean paper towel and wipe off the salt and water that has drawn out. It’s pretty cool, you can actually see the moisture bead up on the surface of the eggplant!
I’m going to go off on a tangent here, so bear with me (or don’t). For the marinara sauce, store bought is perfectly fine if you are in a hurry. But I’m going to share a recipe that couldn’t be simpler that I’ve used in many different recipes. This is Rachael Ray’s basic version of a marinara sauce. Put about three tablespoons of olive oil in a small sauce pan over medium low heat. Crush three cloves of garlic, and add them to the oil, along with 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Let that cook for about five minutes turning the garlic over to make sure it doesn’t burn. If the garlic burns, it will taste bitter and you don’t want that. It should still be soft and golden. So just be sure to keep the heat low and keep an eye on it. Remove the garlic from the oil and stir in about 1/3 of a cup of chicken stock or white wine and cook for about 30 seconds. Add one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes (get the good ones, not the cheap kind). Season with salt and pepper, and cook on low while you prepare the rest of the meal. It doesn’t “have” to cook for any certain amount of time, but I like to give it some time to simmer to really let the flavors make friends with each other. When you’re ready to serve, you can stir in some torn basil…or not.
Baked Eggplant Parmesan
- 1 medium eggplant, in 1/2 inch slides and soaked in salt as described above
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 Tablespoon of chopped flat leaf parsley
- salt and pepper
- 1-2 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
- freshly grated parmesan for topping
- cooked whole wheat pasta (optional)
Preheat oven to 375.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Put beaten eggs in a shallow dish. Mix together the plain breadcrumbs, panko, parmesan, and parsley in another shallow dish. One at a time, soak prepared eggplant slices in the egg, dredge in the breadcrumb mixture, and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 5-10 minutes on each side, or until both sides are lightly browned. Be very careful when you turn them so you don’t scrape off all of the breading.
Top with hot marinara sauce and immediately sprinkle on freshly grated parmesan. Serve on a bed of whole wheat pasta.
P.S. Our new kitchen cabinets are going in today! 😀