Eggplant parm is one of those hearty home cooked meals that makes my mouth water (as most foods do). I remember making this for the first time when I was 11 years old one summer. My recipe at that time was a lot simpler – I literally took the eggplant, sliced it and put it in a baking dish with sauce on the bottom, eggplant and then a layer of mozzarella cheese on top. That still tasted amazing and my mom actually let me make it again when we had family from out of town visiting for dinner. I took that as a true sign of success if my mom, the ultimate perfectionist when it came to cooking, let me make something for dinner. If you’re looking for a really short and easy way to make eggplant parm…go for it with my original recipe. I PROMISE it will still taste good – how can you go wrong when there is cheese involved?
My tastes since then have evolved and I’ve experimented a bit to get to this recipe. It’s the perfect mix of richness from the cheese, sweet tartness from the marinara and crunch from the eggplant and breadcrumbs on top. You know that feeling you get when you pull apart a cheesy slice of pizza that’s piping hot? That’s what this dish is like. Your mouth will water as you’re pulling apart a slice of it and you see the ooey gooey cheese with flecks of crispy breadcrumbs in it. I would recommend taking 2 slices of it at a time because there’s no guarantee there will be any left for you to come back to for seconds.
1 medium sized eggplant
1 ¾ cup of panko bread crumbs
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of black pepper
2 cups marinara sauce
2 cups mozzarella cheese
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tbs olive oil or baking spray
1 tbs freshly chopped thyme (optional for garnishing at the end)
Pre heat oven to 375.
Season 1 ¼ cup of the panko bread crumbs with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Set aside in a plate that is large enough to accommodate the eggplant slices being rolled in the breadcrumbs. In a separate bowl, crack the eggs and beat. Make sure this bowl is also wide enough for the eggplant slices to be dipped in.
Slice the eggplant into round circles about 1/4” thick (no thicker then this or they will be difficult to cook). Take a slice of eggplant and dip it first in the eggs and then in the breadcrumbs, ensuring each side is covered with bread crumbs. Repeat with the remaining eggplant slices and place on a cooling rack for baking. Once all the slices have been coated in the egg and breadcrumb mixtures, place the cooling rack on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1 tbs olive oil over the slices and sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt and black pepper. Bake the slices for 15 minutes then remove from the oven.*
In a baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray, coat the bottom of the dish with marinara sauce. Place a layer of eggplant on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle ½ cup of mozzarella on the eggplant and then continue with another layer of eggplant and cheese – you should get 2-3 layers depending on the size of the eggplant. Once you have completed layering the eggplant and cheese, put a final layer on top of the remaining mozzarella, parmesan and breadcrumbs. Drizzle with 1 tbs olive oil and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
*Placing the slices on a cooling rack to bake will allow the eggplant slices to get crispy. If you do not have a cooling rack, it’s ok – you can still get them crispy. Just put them on a baking sheet and turn them over halfway through so that each side gets toasted.