I think traditional eggplant parmesan is a bit of an oxymoron. You take a perfectly healthy and wholesome vegetable and then bread it, fry it, and top it with too much cheese and sauce even for my liking. The end product is usually greasy and heavy. And sometimes soggy to boot.
But when you bake it, you have something else entirely. This recipe has all of the flavor of traditional eggplant parm without the heaviness or the grease. I like to treat it like chicken parm, instead of making it into a casserole, but you can easily go that route. Serve it up with some spaghetti marinara or go even healthier and serve it alongside a nice salad.
(Although a wedge salad with creamy blue cheese dressing topped with bacon isn’t exactly healthy… it is delicious!)
2 medium eggplants (about 2 pounds) cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 cup flour
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 1/4 cups grated parmesan, divided
1 jar marinara (store-bought or homemade)
1-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (pre-packaged is fine)
In a large bowl, toss the eggplant slices and 1 tablespoon kosher salt (in batches if your bowl’s not big enough); transfer salted eggplant to a colander set over the bowl. Let stand until eggplant releases about 2 tablespoons liquid, 30 to 45 minutes. Arrange eggplant slices on a triple layer of paper towels; cover with a triple layer of paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible, then wipe off excess salt.
While eggplant is draining, preheat oven to 425 degrees and set up dredging stations in shallow bowls or pie plates: flour seasoned with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper; beaten eggs; panko breadcrumbs and 1 cup of grated parmesan. Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour, then the egg, then coat in breadcrumb mixture. Put coated slices on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. (You might need two baking sheets.) Bake for about 20-30 minutes, checking after 15 minutes, until the eggplant starts to brown.
Once baked and crisp, top each eggplant slice with a tablespoon or so of marinara sauce and a small handful of shredded mozzarella and remaining grated parmesan cheese. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and begins to brown slightly. Serve with pasta and additional marinara sauce and/or with a side salad.
Aunt Loretta (hi!) pointed out that a drizzle of olive oil before baking the bread-crumbed eggplant would help to crisp it up. I agree! 🙂