I've been growing eggplant for as long as I've been gardening. It's one of my favorites. The meaty texture is perfect in a main dish or a side. I even made "meatballs" out of it. Every season, I make a batch or two of eggplant parmigiana with my garden eggplant. It's a classic that freezes well, so we can enjoy it throughout the winter.
I took my inspiration for this recipe from Lidia Bastianich's Italian-American Kitchen cookbook. I love Lidia. I worship the culinary ground she walks on. But, her cookbook recipes tend to be written in paragraphs, which I find difficult to follow. I modified her recipe to reflect how I've actually been making it (I rarely follow recipes as written), and created this one. (I also wrote it in a format that is easier to follow). I took the shortcut of using store-bought tomato sauce. (I hope none of you are gasping right now...) The first time I made this, I also made her tomato sauce recipe, but found I hadn't made enough and had to supplement with jars of sauce I had on hand. Ya know what? It was delicious. Making this dish takes up enough time and effort that I don't mind taking a shortcut if it doesn't sacrifice flavor. I never see anyone complaining as they ask for seconds....
Whether you grow your own eggplant or you get it at your local market, I hope you'll give this recipe a try. It's become one of my favorite dishes to make (and is the most-requested by my husband).
TIP: You may use different amounts of some ingredients, depending on how you make it. For example, the eggs, flour and breadcrumbs are for dredging/coating the slices, so you can gague how much you'll need along the way; you may also prefer a less cheesy version or use less sauce. These are flexible and can be modified as needed.
2 1/2 - 3 pounds eggplant (about 2-3 medium)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon table salt
All purpose flour (for dredging), about 1 cup
1 1/2 cups plain unseasoned breadcrumbs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup olive oil
2-3 (24 oz) jars marinara sauce
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Fresh basil (about 15-20 leaves)
2 pounds fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2" thick slices
- Trim the ends of each eggplant and peel the skin in strips lengthwise, leaving 1/2 inch strips of skin about 2 inches apart.
- Cut the eggplant lengthwise in 1/2-inch thick slices and place them in a colandar over a large bowl. Sprinkle kosher salt over the eggplant slices and let drain for about an hour. Rinse the eggplant with cold water and pat dry.
Note: This method of "sweating" the eggplant is intended to take some of the bitterness out. However, many don't consider it necessary. You can skip this step if desired.
- In three wide, shallow pans or bowls, do the following:
Bowl 1: Add flour.
Bowl 2: Whisk the eggs and table salt together.
Bowl 3: Add breadcrumbs.
TIP: Place the bowls in a row in the order of Flour, Eggs, Breadcrumbs. (I remember the order by thinking February's abbreviation of FEB.)
- Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour and shake off excess.
- Dip the floured eggplant into the egg mixture, making sure that both sides are coated. Let excess drip back into the bowl.
- Press each side of the eggplant slice into the breadcrumbs to coat it entirely.
- Pour the vegetable oil and olive oil into a heavy medium to large skillet and heat on medium-high heat. (I use a large cast iron pan).
- Add as many eggplant slices that will fit without the slices touching. Cook for about 3 minutes per side or until they are well-browned on both sides. Remove the slices when done to a baking sheet layered with paper towels. Repeat as needed until all slices are cooked. (Lower heat and add oil if needed throughout cooking.)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
TIP: Place a baking sheet covered in foil on the oven rack below the rack you'll be placing the baking dish on. This will catch dips and keep your oven clean.
- In a 9"x13"baking dish, add these ingredients in layers in the following order, pressing each gently and repeating each layer twice (end with mozzarella and a little drizzle of sauce):
- Sauce (enough to coat)
- Grated cheese
- Sauce (about 3/4 - 1 cup)
- Grated cheese
- Add a little sauce, if needed to fill in the borders, but don't overfill.
- Cover the baking dish loosely with foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Uncover and continue baking for about 20 minutes more until it begins to get golden in spots. Let it rest for 30 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.