Eggplant Parmesan is typically one of those dishes for people who don't like eggplant - bread it, fry it, then smother it in marinara, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. Don't get me wrong, I love it that way too. But let's be honest - it doesn't highlight the eggplant. This version, however, definitely does. Eggplant slices are pan-friend to achieve that awesome, crispy, golden-brown perfection (good luck not polishing them off right then and there). They are then layered with San Marzano tomatoes, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese, garlic, and herbs. After a stint in the oven, it all melds together into something magical.
While the dish is baking, a good bit of liquid is released - from the eggplant, tomatoes, and the olive oil - this stuff should not be drained off. Spoon some over each serving, then use a good crusty bread to sop it up - it's one of the best things about this dish.
This is a pretty rustic dish - as everything is layered, you're just eyeballing each amount, but it doesn't matter that it's not exact. It's homey, comforting, and pretty much perfect. I'd even wager to say that those who don't love eggplant will be converts. It's that good.
barely adapted from Salt to Taste, by Marco Canora
- 4 small or 2 medium eggplants (about 1 1/2 lbs)
- extra virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (28-oz) can San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 Tbs thinly sliced garlic
- 1 Tbs dried oregano
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, diced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch thick slices. Heat about 1/2-inch of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Cook the eggplant in batches, until each piece is crisp and golden, 2 to 3 minutes per side, until each piece is golden. Drain the cooked eggplant on a paper towel-lined baking sheet, salting each batch generously while it's still hot.
Assemble the dish in a medium baking dish (about 11 x 8 inches): Begin by crushing 3 tomatoes with your hands over the dish, letting the juices fall into the pan. Scatter the pieces over the bottom. Season with some of the garlic (about 7 slices or so), a pinch of oregano, a small handful of Parmigiano, salt, and pepper. Tear and scatter 3-4 basil leaves over the top, then cover with a layer of eggplant, fitting the slices in snugly (it's okay if they overlap a bit).
Top the eggplant with 2 more crushed tomatoes and their juices and a little less than one-third of the mozzarella. Season this layer as you did the previous one - garlic, oregano, Parmigiano, salt, pepper, and basil. Cover with another layer of eggplant, 2 more tomatoes, and another third of the mozzarella. Season as before.
Finish the dish with a final layer of eggplant, the remaining tomatoes, the remaining mozzarella and the remaining oregano, garlic, Parmigiano, and basil. Season with salt and pepper.
Bake uncovered until the cheese and "sauce" are bubbly, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 15 minutes. Sprinkle with more torn basil. Serve, spooning pan juices over each serving. Crusty bread is also a must for serving!