Eggplant Parmesan is the ultimate in Italian comfort foods. It’s layered like lasagna. However, unlike lasagna, Eggplant Parmesan is meatless with crispy breaded eggplant slices taking the place of pasta. Those crispy eggplant slices are smothered in a simple marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. Eggplant Parmesan can be made ahead of time and makes the perfect leftovers.
My brother has an awesome garden. One of the things that he’s currently growing is Japanese eggplant. Unlike globe eggplant, Japanese eggplant is long and slender. Its skin is thin and glossy smooth, and the eggplant tastes mild and sweet. Like other varieties of eggplant, Japanese eggplant is low in calories, rich in fiber and loaded with vitamins and nutrients.
When my brother asked me if I wanted some eggplant, I jumped and the chance. I’ve been wanting to make Eggplant Parmesan for some time, and this presented the perfect opportunity. As an added bonus, he also gave me some delicious fresh basil which I used in this dish!
Looking for another awesome vegetarian recipe? Check out my Portabella Mushroom Burgers. Total Yum!
Ingredients for Eggplant Parmesan
One of the key ingredients in Eggplant Parmesan is marinara sauce. I could have purchased some ready-made marinara sauce at the store. However, it’s so easy to make my own that I went that route. For my simple marinara sauce, I used canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, fresh garlic, Kosher salt, and some of my brother’s basil.
In addition to the marinara sauce, I used some of my brother’s Japanese eggplant, Kosher salt, all-purpose flour, freshly ground black pepper, egg, milk, Italian breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil for garnish.
Preparing the Eggplant
I cut both off both ends of the eggplant, and then cut the eggplant into ¼-inch circles.
Next, I placed the cut eggplant pieces into a colander and sprinkled on a teaspoon of Kosher salt. I let the eggplant sit for about 30 minutes while the salt worked its magic of drawing out water. After 30 minutes, I transferred the eggplant to a paper towel lined baking sheet. I used another paper towel to blot the eggplant to remove additional water.
Making the Marinara Sauce
While the eggplant was draining, I made a simple marinara sauce. I started by crushing the San Marzano tomatoes with my hands. I could have used crushed tomatoes rather than the whole San Marzano tomatoes. However, crushed tomatoes can be somewhat bitter, requiring the addition of some sugar.
Next, I added the garlic, which I had slivered, to a skillet with olive oil heated over medium heat. I cooked the garlic for several minutes, making sure that it didn’t brown. Then, I added the tomatoes, some salt and a sprig of fresh basil. After the basil wilted, I stirred it into the tomato sauce. I let the marinara sauce cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes until it was nicely thickened. That’s it!
Cooking the Eggplant for the Eggplant Parmesan
One of the things that takes this Eggplant Parmesan over the top is breading the eggplant before putting everything together. I started by coating the eggplant in some flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Then, I dipped the eggplant into a mixture of egg and milk. Next, I coated the eggplant in a mixture of Italian breadcrumbs and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. I placed the breaded eggplant on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet with sides that I had brushed with olive oil.
I popped the breaded eggplant into a preheated 425° F oven for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, the eggplant was golden brown and crispy. I actually could have stopped there because the crispy eggplant rounds were delicious on their own!
Assembling the Eggplant Parmesan
With all of the components of the Eggplant Parmesan ready, the time had come to put it all together. First, I spread some marinara sauce in the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Then, I placed a layer of half of the crispy eggplant rounds. Next, I sprinkled on half of the mozzarella cheese. For the second layer, I started with some marinara sauce. Then, I layered the rest of the crispy eggplant rounds and sprinkled on the rest of the mozzarella cheese. Finally, I spooned on some additional marinara sauce and sprinkled on some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
I baked the Eggplant Parmesan in a preheated 425° F oven for about 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, the Eggplant Parmesan was bubbly and nicely browned. I let it cool for about 10 minutes before serving an amazingly delicious Eggplant Parmesan. Everything blended together beautifully. Yum!
Simple Marinara Sauce
- 28 ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes, undrained (See Tip 1)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 7 cloves garlic, peeled and slivered
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 sprig of fresh basil
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound Japanese eggplant, unpeeled (See Tip 2)
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- 1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 2 ¼ cups marinara sauce
- 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 Tablespoon minced basil for garnish (optional)
Simple Marinara Sauce
- Pour tomatoes into bowl; crush with hands. Set aside.
- Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add slivered garlic. Cook 2 to 3 minutes stirring often to prevent garlic from browning. Add crushed tomatoes; stir to combine. Add 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and sprig of fresh basil. When basil wilts stir into marinara sauce.
- Cook minutes over medium heat or until thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat; remove basil sprig and discard.
- Preheat oven to 425° F. Line 2 large baking sheets with sides with aluminum foil. Brush each with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.
- Cut off both ends of eggplant. Cut into ¼-inch rounds. Place in colander. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt; toss to combine. Allow to sit in colander for 30 minutes.
- Remove eggplant from colander and place in single layer on paper towel lined baking sheets. Blot dry with additional paper towels.
- Fior Breading: Combine ½ cup flour, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper in Ziploc bag. Whisk together egg and ¼ cup milk. Combine 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs and ½ cup (2 ounces) of freshly grated Parmesan cheese in a plate.
- To bread eggplant, toss in seasoned flour. Dip in egg/milk mixture and with coat Italian breadcrumb/Parmesan cheese mixture, pressing to ensure breadcrumbs adhere to eggplant. Place in a single layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake at 425° F for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
- Eggplant Parmesan Assembly: Spread ¾ cup of marinara sauce in bottom of greased 2 ½ quart casserole. Add half of eggplant in single layer. Top with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and ¾ cup of marinara sauce. For second layer, add remaining eggplant in single layer. Top with 1 cup of mozzarella and ¾ cup of marinara sauce. Top with remaining half cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. May be prepared in advance up to this point.
- Bake in preheated 425° F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until bubbly and golden brown. If desired, garnish with 1 tablespoon of minced basil.
- Yield: 6 servings. (See Tip 3)
Chula's Expert Tips
- May use 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes if unable to find whole San Marzano tomatoes. If the marinara sauce is bitter, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of brown sugar.
- May use unpeeled regular globe eggplant in place of the Japanese eggplant.
- This makes delicious leftovers!