Think eggplant has to be stringy, bitter, greasy, or bland? Chances are you’ve just never eaten it when it’s cooked right. Eggplant in and of itself is rather insipid, but it’s a great companion to many other vegetables and spices—think ratatouille, crisp-edged fried eggplant smothered with tahini, the creamiest, richest baba ganoush, or Japanese miso-glazed eggplant burgers…hungry yet?
If you have an entire afternoon to kill, then this layered Eggplant Parmesan recipe is for you. Oh, and make sure to have a LOT of paper towels on hand—fair warning. But OMG, is it worth it! You could of course cheat and use a prepared sauce, but then you’d only be cheating yourself, because the sauce is AMAZING! In fact, we’re thinking of making a batch of just the sauce to use for any number of recipes. So as not to spend a marathon in the kitchen in one fell swoop, go ahead and cook up the tomato sauce a day or two ahead of time.
Our chunk of low moisture mozzarella was 8 ounces, but I went ahead and used it all instead of just 6 ounces which the recipe specifies. And because of Russ’s wheat allergy, we utilized gluten-free flour and panko bread crumbs.
Be aware of timing your dinner appropriately because trying to slice into this Eggplant Parmesan while it’s molten hot creates an oozy mess, so let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to firm up before serving. It’ll serve 8-12, depending on how big you cut your portions. We were thrilled to have leftovers for additional meals (both lunch and dinner) during the week.
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 head of garlic, cloves crushed
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 3 oil-packed anchovy fillets (optional)
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
- ¼ cup torn basil leaves
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- Kosher salt
The crushed garlic cloves get cooked until golden.
After the red onion becomes translucent, add the tablespoon of tomato paste.
Pour in the cans of whole peeled tomatoes and partially crush with hands.
Torn basil leaves and dried oregano are added to the crushed tomatoes.
After the tomato sauce cooks in the oven for nearly 2 1/2 hours, it is puréed in a food processor until smooth.
Eggplant And Assembly
- 4 pounds Italian eggplants (about 4 medium), peeled, sliced lengthwise ½–¾ inch thick
- Kosher salt
- 3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 1½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ cups finely grated Parmesan, divided
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 5 large eggs, beaten to blend
- 1⅓ cups olive oil
- ½ cup finely chopped basil and parsley, plus basil leaves for serving
- 6 ounces low-moisture mozzarella, grated (about 1⅓ cups)
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a large heavy ovenproof pot over medium. Cook garlic, stirring often, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add onion, anchovies (if using), and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes. Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook until almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, breaking up with your hands, and their juices; add basil and oregano and stir to combine.
Swirl 1½ cups water into one tomato can, then the other, to rinse, and add to pot; season with salt. Transfer pot to oven; roast sauce, stirring halfway through, until thick and tomatoes are browned on top and around edges of pot, 2–2½ hours.
Let sauce cool slightly. Pass through the large holes of a food mill or process in a food processor until mostly smooth. Taste and season with salt.
Lightly season eggplant slices all over with salt; place in a single layer on several layers of paper towels inside a rimmed baking sheet. Top with another layer of paper towels and more slices; repeat as needed.
Pulse panko, oregano, pepper, and half of the Parmesan in a food processor until very finely ground.
Create an assembly line of flour, beaten eggs and the panko-parm mixture for dipping and coating.
Place coated eggplant slices on a rack while oil in frying pan gets hot.
About three at a time will fit in the skillet for 2-3 minutes each side. Cook in batches.
Place fried eggplant slices on layers of papertowels, and blot the tops with more paper towels.
Eggplant And Assembly
Lightly season eggplant slices all over with salt; place in a single layer on several layers of paper towels inside a rimmed baking sheet. Top with another layer of paper towels and more slices; repeat as needed. Top with a final layer of paper towels, then another rimmed baking sheet; weigh down with a heavy pot.
Let eggplant sit until it has released excess liquid, 45–60 minutes. This step gives the eggplant a creamy texture when baked.
Meanwhile, pulse panko, oregano, pepper, and ¾ cup Parmesan in a food processor until very finely ground. Transfer to a shallow bowl.
Preheat oven to 350°. Place flour in another shallow bowl and eggs in a third shallow bowl. Working one at a time, dredge eggplant slices in flour, then dip in egg, allowing excess to drip off. Coat in breadcrumbs, packing all around, then shaking off excess. Place on wire racks.
Heat ⅔ cup oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high. Cook as many eggplant slices as will comfortably fit in pan, turning once, until deep golden, about 5 minutes.
Transfer to paper towels and immediately press with more paper towel to absorb oil. Working in batches, repeat with remaining slices, adding remaining ⅔ cup oil and wiping out skillet as needed. Let cool. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
Toss chopped herbs, low-moisture mozzarella, and remaining ¾ cup Parmesan in a medium bowl. Spread 1 cup sauce over the bottom of a 13 x 9″ baking pan; top with a layer of eggplant slices (trim as needed). Drizzle 1 cup sauce over and sprinkle with one-third of cheese mixture.
Add another layer of eggplant, followed by 1 cup sauce and half of remaining cheese mixture. Repeat layers with remaining slices, sauce, and cheese mixture. Cover with foil and bake on a rimmed baking sheet until eggplant is custardy, 45–60 minutes. (I left it in the oven for the full hour.)
Remove from oven and arrange fresh mozzarella over eggplant. Increase oven temperature to 425° and bake, uncovered, until cheese is bubbling and browned in spots, 15–20 minutes longer. Let rest 30 minutes. Top with basil leaves just before slicing.
Toss together chopped herbs, low-moisture mozzarella, and remaining Parmesan in a medium bowl.
Starting with the sauce layer the eggplant, and cheese on top, and repeat two more times.
After about an hour, remove the dish from oven and increase the temperature to 425 degrees.
Layer the mozzarella slices allover the top and return to oven.
After the cheese melts and starts to brown, remove from oven and let sit at least 30 minutes before cutting.
Top with a chiffonade of fresh basil. We enjoyed with a side salad for a complete meal.