I'm sure you've had Eggplant Parmigiana before, but I'm not sure if you've had Eggplant Parm like my family makes it. And if that is the case, than you most definitely are missing out. The secret ingredient is a layer of ricotta along with the normal cast of characters: breaded eggplant, tomato sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan. Ricotta cheese gives the Parmigiana an extra texture and flavor dimension. It becomes more like a vegetarian lasagna without the pasta. But then I go ahead and serve it with pasta so there goes that chance of cutting carbs-whoopsies!
Another secret to making the best eggplant parmigiana my Mom shared with me is to cut the eggplant very thin, just thick enough to hold up to the breading and frying. I think many people assume they don't like eggplant because when its cut in thick slices the middle becomes mushy and unappetizing. But when breaded thin, you get a nice crispy eggplant layer that will balance out the creamy melted cheese.
The last secret is to swap Italian Breadcrumbs for Japanese style Panko breadcrumbs. Panko is much flakier and lighter and creates the perfect crispy crust.
Now I'm going to be honest, breading and frying the eggplant slices is not the simplest task. It is pretty time consuming and tedious to coat each eggplant slice into flour, then egg, then panko and fry until golden brown in olive oil. BUT the result is worth it so just turn on some good jams and push through.
When your done with the eggplant assembly line of breading and frying, give yourself a pat on the back and a glass of wine and get started on the fun part! Put a thin layer of My Better than Bottled Marinara Sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish to prevent sticking. Then arrange a layer of your eggplant slices, overlapping if necessary to avoid large holes with no eggplant.
Next up, the cheese layer. Add slices of mozzarella, spoonfuls of ricotta, and a sprinkling of parmesan. Top with sauce and another layer of eggplant.
Repeat the layering process as much as needed to fill up your casserole dish, but make sure your last layer is just sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan to create a nice cheesy crust.
Cover and pop into a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes until heated through and cheese is melted. Uncover and place under broiler for a couple of minutes so the top can get browned and crispy and piping hot!
Mmmm, there's no way you can't convert a vegetable hater into liking eggplant with a dish like this.
Serve over a bed of spaghetti and topped with additional marinara sauce for a dinner you won't soon forget.
The best part is it makes for an easy Round Two recipe: Eggplant Parmigiana Heros. Just heat up the leftovers (and believe me you will have leftovers because its super filling) and serve in a Ciabatta roll for lunch the next day. Buon Appetito!
3 cups panko bread crumbs
1 cup flour
1 lb ricotta cheese
1 lb mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Better Than Bottled Marinara Sauce
pasta or ciabatta bread to serve with
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice eggplant thinly, about 1/4 of an inch thick. Beat eggs in a bowl with a splash of water and season with salt and pepper. Place panko bread crumbs in shallow bowl and flour in another. Dredge eggplant slices in flour first, then into egg mixture, and finally into panko bread crumbs. Making sure to pat the panko bread crumbs onto the eggplant slices to ensure the bread crumbs are evenly adhered.
Heat about 1/2 inch of olive oil in a frying pan on high heat until oil is very hot. Lower to medium heat, and place as many eggplant slices that will fit into pan and cook for a few minutes until each side is browned and eggplant is tender. Drain on paper towels. Continue cooking batches of eggplants-I like to wash the pan and add new olive oil after every two batches.
Spread a layer of marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Next add a layer of eggplant slices, overlapping if necessary to avoid holes in the casserole without eggplant. Add slices of mozzarella, spoonfuls of ricotta, and a sprinkling of parmesan. Top with sauce and another layer of eggplant. Repeat the layering process as much as needed to fill up your casserole dish. Finish with a layer of only marinara, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in oven for about 20-25 minutes until parmigiana is hot all the way through. Remove foil and place under broiler for a couple of minutes so the top can get browned and cheese melts completely.
Serve with pasta and additional marinara sauce on top or as Eggplant Parmigiana Heroes on ciabatta bread.