Baked eggplant parmesan eliminates the mess associated with frying eggplant, but with crunchy panko & gooey mozzarella, it doesn’t eliminate the flavor! (Scroll down for video!)
I can still recall my first experience with eggplant. I used to watch Tyler Florence’s Food Network show How to Boil Water fairly religiously, and one Sunday he made this amazing-looking eggplant parmesan. It was really kind of like a lasagna with eggplant in place of the noodles….layers of breaded and crisply-fried eggplant slices layered with fresh mozzarella and a rich tomato sauce. I had to make it. No, you don’t understand…I had to.
This was probably eight or nine years ago, and fresh mozzarella was not widely available like it is now. I looked everywhere for it and couldn’t find it anywhere (honestly, I probably didn’t know the right places to look…that was then, this is now). Finally, I asked a local deli if they would be willing to sell me some, and they were. So I took home my beautiful ball of fresh mozzarella and baked up this gorgeous, burnished eggplant-tomato-cheese layered concoction….
And I hated it. Hated. It.
It’s been so long that I don’t really remember exactly what it was that I didn’t like about it, but I remember that I could barely choke down that cheese-filled eggplanty thing and we tossed out the leftovers. Not fans.
It took us several years before we got up the courage to jump back on the eggplant train, and amazingly we have loved it every single time we’ve prepared it since. It’s the strangest thing. I hear people talk about how bitter eggplant is, and sure, there is a little bitter bite when you eat the seeds…but it’s no big deal and I’ve never found it to be off-putting. We’ve chopped it up and put it in risotto (with tomato sauce, red wine, and a little mascarpone or cream cheese-oh my); we’ve stacked it with basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella; and we’ve made baked eggplant parmesan.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m kind of the queen of bake-frying things. It started when I read Devin Alexander’s book Fast Food Fix and realized just how crispy you could make your food with a hot pan, some bread crumbs, and an oil sprayer. Then I sold Pampered Chef for a while and acquired a few stoneware pans, discovering the crisping power of a good, hot baking stone. I rarely actually fry anything…why would you deal with the mess and the exorbitant amount of oil necessary for frying when you can keep everything contained on one pan and spray it just a little with a mister?
Anyway, this baked eggplant parmesan isn’t the crispiest you’ve ever had, but what were you expecting when you sauce it up with tomato sauce and top it with cheese? It’s flippin’ delicious, though, and I sliced, breaded, and baked the eggplant in about twenty minutes and made the sauce while the eggplant was baking. And I still had the energy to go to the grocery store after. Also, I dare you to tell me anything that can’t be made more perfect by adding a layer of sauce and a swath of browned, bubbly cheese. Double dog dare.
You will not be disappointed by this baked eggplant parmesan. Pinky swear.
Yield: 4 servings
15 minPrep Time:
25 minCook Time:
40 minTotal Time:
- 2 Medium eggplants (sliced about 1/2 inch thick)
- 1 1/2 cup panko crumbs
- 2 Large eggs
- olive oil spray
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Small onion (diced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced or pressed)
- 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes (pureed to a chunky consistency. I like San Marzanos)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup basil (chiffonade)
- sugar to taste (optional)
- 6-8oz fresh mozzarella (thinly sliced or grated)
- parmesan cheese
- 8oz spaghetti (cooked according to package directions)
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you have a baking stone, preheat the stone in the oven.
- Whisk the 2 eggs with salt and pepper in a pie plate. Pour the panko into another pie plate. Bread the eggplant slices by coating them in egg then dipping them in the panko crumbs to coat completely, then transfer to a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Spray each side with olive oil spray and lightly salt. When the oven has preheated, bake the eggplant on the preheated stone or on a baking sheet for 8-10 minutes on each side or until tender and browned.
- While the eggplant is baking, make the sauce: preheat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Cook the onion until translucent then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add the tomatoes and cook until thickened and reduced. Add the basil, salt and pepper to taste. You can also add sugar if the sauce is too acidic.
- If you baked the eggplant on a baking stone, transfer it to a regular metal baking sheet now (stones should not be placed under a broiler). Turn the broiler on. Spread the top of each slice of eggplant with a layer of sauce. Divide the mozzarella among the eggplant slices then grate a generous amount of parmesan on top of each.
- Broil the eggplant until browned and bubbly on top. Combine the remaining sauce with the pasta. Served immediately.