The grass is green again, flowers are blooming, and the vegetable section at the market is beginning to look healthier and more vibrant. That’s right- it’s spring! It’s time to put away that slow cooker, and remember how to use your vegetables in something other than soup. One veggie-centric recipe I love devouring is Baked Eggplant Parmesan. Fairly often, this dish is served with fried eggplant and more cheese than vegetables. I prefer to bake the eggplant, use a little less cheese, and throw in a few extra veggies.
Making Baked Eggplant Parmesan
To prepare this tasty Italian casserole, start by peeling and slicing your eggplant. Honestly, I sometimes skip the peeling, because I suffer from kitchen laziness. It’s a terrible condition. If you too suffer from kitchen laziness, you may find yourself serving your eggplant with the skin on. However, on occasion you’ll end up with tough eggplant skin, and you’ll regret your laziness. It’s a risk.
Next, you need to sweat the eggplant. As hilarious as it would be, this doesn’t involve making the vegetables run around the park, or even cranking the heat up in your house. Instead, you sprinkle salt on your eggplant, set it in a colander with a towel over it, set something heavy on top (last time I used a pineapple– use whatever is nearby), and let the water drain out. Normally my laziness would tempt me to skip this step, but since we’re baking the eggplant, it really does need to be a little drier than it is naturally. After the eggplant dries out a little, you’ll coat it in breadcrumbs,* bake it, and then layer tomato sauce, extra fresh diced veggies, cheese, and the eggplant. Bake again until it’s all cooked and melted, and serve with a heaping bowl of pasta.
Note: I sometimes substitute ground cornmeal for breadcrumbs, because it’s easier to find cornmeal without additives and strange ingredients. I like the taste of the cornmeal coating, and it’s a nice alterative to breadcrumbs if you don’t have any stocked in your pantry (and don’t want to make your own).
Still hungry? Try these veggie-centric meals:
Baked Eggplant Parmesan
- 1 large eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced (peeling recommended but optional)
- 1/2 TB salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- ~1 cup breadcrumbs (or sub cornmeal)
- 28oz jar tomato sauce (4 cups tomato sauce)
- 1 TB olive oil, plus more to drizzle over pasta
- •8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped (or sub 2-3 tsp dried basil)
- 1 onion, diced
- ~8oz mozzarella (fresh preferred, either sliced or shredded. Use more or less as desired)
- ~4oz parmesan (grated)
- 1 bell pepper, diced (optional)
- 1 lb angel hair pasta
Lightly salt both sides of eggplant slices, and layer slices in a colander. Set colander in the sink, cover with a towel or paper towels, and set something heavy on top (like a glass mixing bowl). Let sit for at least 15 minutes (or up to an hour).
Preheat oven to 350 F and line 2 baking sheets with foil. Brush or spray foil with oil. One at a time, dip eggplant slices in egg and then in breadcrumbs (coat both sides). Set eggplant in single layer on baking sheets, and bake 6-7 minutes, flip, and bake 6-7 more minutes (12-14 minutes total).
While eggplant is baking, pour half the tomato sauce in a 9"x9" pan (or small casserole dish). Drizzle about 1 TB oil on top of sauce, and sprinkle with half the herbs. Layer all the onions (and all the bell pepper, if using) on top of tomato mixture. Top with half mozzarella.
When eggplant is finished, layer half the eggplant on top of cheese. Add remaining tomato sauce and mozzarella. Top with remaining eggplant, all the parmesan, and remaining herbs.
Bake uncovered 25-30 minutes, until veggies are cooked through and cheese is melted.
Cook pasta while the Eggplant Parmesan is baking, and toss pasta with olive oil before serving.
Eggplant baking technique adapted from: All Recipes