Non-breaded Eggplant Parmesan, because who needs extra carbs?? There’s not an ounce of Italian in either of us, but for many Italian-American families, Eggplant Parmesan is that heirloom recipe that tends to put in an appearance at most important family gatherings. This simple yet special casserole, rich with silken eggplant, tangy marinara, and gooey mozzarella, pleases meat eaters and vegetarians alike.
Even if your family lineage doesn’t trace back to the Italian Motherland, this comfort food classic is perfect for group entertaining. In its original state, this recipe serves 8 (maybe 10), and is party friendly, but way too much for the two of us, so I cut the eggplant back by half. As it so happened, daughter Julia was an unexpected house guest and then there were three for dinner, but the reduced recipe still made enough for four servings. Julia (who was maintaining a low-carb diet), admitted she had never eaten eggplant before, so she was a bit skeptical in trying it. In the end, we all LOVED the Eggplant Parm!
Oh, and about that cutting the recipe in half, I still used a large 13″ x 9″ casserole dish. This option only produced two layers of eggplant. If you wish to have a thicker stack, use a square 8″ x 8″ or 9″ x 9″ dish instead, which will force you to go vertical with the tiers. It still took the entire 45 minutes in the oven to achieve the lightly golden cheese topping.
- You can fry the eggplant ahead of time and store it overnight in the refrigerator. Line a rimmed baking sheet with an old clean kitchen towel. Line the towel with paper towels. Put the eggplant in a single layer on the paper towel. Continue stacking the remaining eggplant in layers on top of each other and separated by paper towels. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight. This can be done up to three days ahead.
- You can assemble the dish, bake it, cool it, and store it in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic up to three days ahead. Rewarm gently in a 250°F oven until heated through, about 30 minutes.
- 5 lb. medium eggplant, trimmed and peeled
- 2 Tbs. kosher salt
- 1-1/2 cups peanut oil; more as needed
- 1 32-oz. jar good-quality marinara sauce, or your favorite homemade sauce
- 1 lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3-1/2 cups)
- 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1-1/4 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese, (about 5 oz.)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Cut the eggplant crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Put the slices in single layers between paper towels on rimmed baking sheets, sprinkling each layer lightly with the salt. Set aside for 1 hour.
- Put 1/2 cup of the oil in a large skillet, and heat on medium until the oil shimmers. Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels.
- Fry the eggplant in single layers in batches until light golden and soft in the center when pierced with a fork, 2 to 2-1/2 minutes per side. When the eggplant is tender, transfer to rimmed baking sheets lined with paper towels, replenishing the oil in the skillet as necessary.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350°F.
- To assemble, spread about 1/4 cup of the marinara sauce evenly on the bottom of a 3-qt. 9×13-inch baking dish.
- Pat the eggplant with paper towels, and lay enough slices to cover the bottom of the baking dish in a single layer.
- Sparingly dollop 2 to 3 Tbs. of sauce on top of some of the eggplant slices, scatter a generous handful (about 3/4 cup) of the mozzarella over the eggplant, top evenly with some of the basil (about 1/4 cup), and then sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the grated cheese and a few grinds of pepper.
- Continue layering in this way until the final layer of eggplant is used. Finish with the remaining tomato sauce, grated cheese, and a few grinds of pepper.
- Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 35 to 40 minutes before slicing and serving.
Top with additional sauce and grated cheese. We served ours with a side of broccolini.
Adapted from a recipe by Patrizia Auricchio from Fine Cooking