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.
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 1/4-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 1/2 cup flour, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper in Ziploc bag. Whisk together egg and 1/4 cup milk. Combine 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs and 1/2 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 3/4 cup of marinara sauce in bottom of greased 2 1/2 quart casserole. Add half of eggplant in single layer. Top with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and 3/4 cup of marinara sauce. For second layer, add remaining eggplant in single layer. Top with 1 cup of mozzarella and 3/4 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)