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Eggplant Parmigiana

The eggplants are ripening in the garden so it is time for....

Eggplant Parmigiana

Serves 4.

Because the eggplant is precooked in the oven rather than fried, this eggplant parmigiana is light on the use oil. Overall, it has a fresher cleaner taste and finish. That’s the plus.

Time requirement: 35 minutes to make the tomato sauce (that can be made in advance); about hour to salt and cook the eggplant; and 1¾ hours for the final preparation, cooking, and rest. It is time consuming. But that is the nature of eggplant parmigiana.

What you will need, for the final dish:

2 large purple oval eggplants, about 1 pound each.

¾ cup panko breadcrumbs.

8-10 ounces of mozzarella (buffalo if you can get it) to slice.

1¼ cup grated parmesan reggiano cheese.

2 tablespoons of kosher salt.

¾ cup of olive oil. (For a still lighter version, replace the olive oil with a spray oil.)

An Additional ¼ cup olive oil to make the breadcrumb topping.

Fresh black pepper to grind.

A 1½ quart glass bread pan to cook the dish.

What you will need for the tomato sauce:

2 pounds fresh red ripe tomatoes.

1 large onion minced (8 ounces).

3 tablespoons olive oil.

3 fresh bay leaves

1 long (8-10 inches) sprig of oregano.

2 garlic cloves put through a garlic press.

½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt, according to your taste.

A dozen fresh basil leaves tome into pieces (about four pieces per leaf).

Preparation: the tomato sauce:

Peel, seed, and chop the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor and process into a puree. Set the puree aside.

In a large saucepan, sauté the diced onions in the olive oil over a moderate heat for about 5 minutes or until they are soft and translucent. Pour in the tomato puree into the pan. Add the bay leaves and whole oregano sprig. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Halfway through add the garlic and salt.

When done remove the bay leaf and oregano sprig. Add the basil leaves and stir into the sauce. Set the sauce aside while you prepare the eggplant.

Preparation: the eggplant:

Cut the eggplant into one-third inch thick slices. Set the eggplant slices in a large colander and sprinkle with salt (on both sides). Leave the eggplant for 45-60 minutes.

Preheat the broiler. Dry the eggplant with paper towels. Place them on a baking sheet and brush them with olive oil. (For a still lighter version replace the olive oil with a spray oil.) Cook 5 minutes on each side. Set the cooked eggplant aside until you are ready to assemble the dish.

Preparation: assembling the final dish

On the bottom of the bread pan, spread a layer of the tomato sauce. Cover with tomato sauce with eggplant slices. Top the eggplant with more tomato sauce. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs. Cover with half the slices of mozzarella (which you can shred with your hands to get a more even distribution) and sprinkle with 1½ tablespoon parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper. Make another layer of eggplant, tomato sauce, breadcrumbs, mozzarella, parmesan, and freshly ground black. Finish with a layer of eggplant topped with tomatoes sauce.

Cook covered in preheated 375-degree F oven for 30 minutes. At 30 minutes uncover and mix the remaining ½ cup breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese with 3-4 tablespoons olive oil and spread this mixture atop the dish and cook an additional 30 minutes. When done cooking allow the dish to rest, loosely cover with foil for 30 minutes. The eggplant finishes cooking during the 30-minute rest. Also, this is a dish best not served piping hot.

Note: You may have some eggplant slices left over.

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