Eggplant parmesan is one of my favorite dishes for when I want something super comforting without including meat. Roasted garlic and tomatoes are prepared for the sauce while the eggplant is treated with salt, meaning that this meal comes together in a snap, making it perfect for a decadent weeknight dinner or something to be whipped up after a long, lazy Saturday.
This recipe features a sauce made from scratch, but you're welcome to skip it if you don’t want to go through the process or need to speed this dish up. (Although it can be easily made ahead of time and frozen for later!) In place of roasting off and blending the vegetables:
- Add minced garlic to the pan with the onion and peppers instead of roasting it in the oven.
- Use (2) 15oz cans of crushed tomatoes poured straight into the pan with the vegetables instead of roasting and blending whole tomatoes.
I make it both ways and as long as you season it well and use good cheese, it will be great either way! For a slightly fancier and richer version of this dish, I will use burrata cheese on the top layer instead of regular mozzarella cheese.
For the Sauce:
5-6 Roma Tomatoes, halved
8-9 garlic cloves
½ White or sweet onion, diced
½ Red bell pepper, diced
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 Tbsp Tomato paste
3-4 sprigs of Thyme
4-5 Basil leaves, minced
1 Tbsp Garlic powder
1 Tbsp Paprika
1 Tsp Red pepper flake
1 Tsp Cornstarch
For the Eggplant:
1 large Italian eggplant, cut into wheels
¼ cup All purpose flour
¼ cup cornmeal
2 eggs, beaten
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- Cut eggplant into wheels, being sure to get the diameter of the slices as uniform as possible so they cook evenly.
- Toss these slices in salt and set aside for about 25-30 minutes. (This keeps the eggplant from getting soggy later.)
- While the eggplant is resting, slice the tomatoes in half lengthwise and arrange on a foil lined baking tray with garlic cloves. (Don’t remove the garlic cloves from their paper skins yet so they can roast without burning)
- Toss the tomatoes and garlic in 1 Tbsp olive oil. Roast in the oven until well cooked down, about 20-25 minutes depending on your oven. Once roasted, remove from the oven to cool. (Don’t turn off the oven yet because you’ll need it to cook the whole casserole!)
- Add flour and cornmeal to a large bowl with salt/pepper and garlic powder. (You can also add any other dried spices that you’d like such as italian seasoning, cayenne, onion powder, or paprika) Mix the spices into the breading mixture.
- Beat the eggs in a separate shallow bowl. Set aside.
- Put a large pan on the stove over high heat. Add ½ cup of oil to the pan and heat until hot enough to fry, but not smoking. (You can pinch some flour into the pan to check if the oil is ready—if the flour begins to sizzle in the oil, it is hot enough to fry the eggplant.)
- Dip the wheels of eggplant into the egg, covering them in a thin layer of the beaten egg. Then immediately coat the eggplant wheel in the flour and cornmeal mixture.
- Using tongs, add the coated eggplant wheels to the oil, working in batches of 3-4 slices depending on the size of your pan. (Be careful not to overcrowd the pan with slices. It can increase the chances of a grease fire and cause you to burn the eggplant.) Fry the eggplant until golden brown for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Once done, move them to a paper towel lined plate to cool. Repeat until all your slices are cooked.
For the Sauce:
- Remove the roasted garlic from their paper skins and add, with the roasted tomatoes, to a blender with ½ cup of stock. Process on high until very smooth.
- In a medium sized sautee pan, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add diced onion and red bell pepper to the oil and cook until the onion is translucent and peppers are very aromatic, about 3-5 minutes.
- Stir the tomato paste into the peppers and onions. Pour the blended tomato mixture into the pan and stir well to incorporate into the tomato paste and vegetables. Add the rest of the stock to the pan and increase the heat to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- To thicken the sauce, mix 1 Tsp of cornstarch with 1 Tbsp water in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Pour into the sauce and stir well.
- Add spices and minced herbs to taste.
- In a baking dish, layer ⅓ of the eggplant in the bottom of the dish. Pour ⅓ of the sauce over the eggplant, followed by a layer of mozzarella and parmesan. Repeat until all the eggplant is gone and/or the dish is full. Cover the top of the casserole with mozzarella.
- Transfer the dish to the oven and bake at 400º for 15-20 minutes.
- Switch to broil setting and broil for 3-4 minutes until cheese is melted and browned on top. (Watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn!)
- Remove from the oven and enjoy! I like to have this with a green salad and seltzer since it’s fairly heavy!
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 lemon, halved
2 cloves fresh garlic, grated
1 tin of anchovies, minced
salt/pepper to taste
1-2 Tsp oil
- Chop the lettuce well and put in a large mixing bowl with finely minced anchovies.
- Cut the lemon in half and squeeze out the juice, careful to avoid getting any seeds in the bowl. Grate the garlic into the bowl and add oil and salt/pepper to taste.
- Using tongs, toss the salad so it’s evenly dressed. Top with parmesan if you’d like! (Adding roasted chickpeas and cubed avocado to this salad will make it more of a “dinner” salad.)