Eggplant Parmesan is labor-intensive but well worth all the time and effort. My mother made a fantastic Eggplant Parmesan. She would bake her eggplant not fry. I follow her method. I think the eggplant taste better not fried in oil. Sometimes I’ll just bake breaded eggplant and serve it as a side dish. Simply outstanding!
I love big Sunday dinners with many carefully prepared dishes just like my mother prepared for our family. And I carried on the tradition for my family.
¼ cup olive oil
1 head of garlic, cloves crushed
1 large red onion, chopped
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ cup dry white wine
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
¼ cup torn basil leaves
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Eggplant and Assembly
4 pounds Italian eggplants (about 4 medium), peeled, sliced lengthwise ½–¾ inch thick
3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ cups finely grated Parmesan, divided
1½ cups all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, beaten to blend
]1⅓ cups olive oil
½ cup finely chopped basil and parsley, plus basil leaves for serving
6 ounces low-moisture mozzarella, grated (about 1⅓ cups)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a large heavy ovenproof pot over medium. Cook garlic, stirring often, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add onion, anchovies (if using), and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes. Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook until almost completely evaporated about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, breaking up with your hands, and their juices; add basil and oregano and stir to combine. Swirl 1½ cups water into one tomato can, then the other, to rinse, and add to the pot. I don’t want to waist any delicious tomatoes. Season with salt. Transfer pot to oven; roast sauce, stirring halfway through, until thick and tomatoes are browned on top and around edges of the pot, 2–2½ hours.
Let the sauce cool slightly. Pass through the large holes of a food mill or process in a food processor until mostly smooth. Taste and season with salt.
The sauce can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.
Lightly season eggplant slices all over with salt; place in a single layer on several layers of paper towels inside a rimmed baking sheet. Top with another layer of paper towels and more slices; repeat as needed. Top with a final layer of paper towels, then another rimmed baking sheet; weigh down with a heavy pot. Let the eggplant sit until it has released excess liquid, 45–60 minutes. This step gives the eggplant a creamy texture when baked.
Meanwhile, pulse panko, oregano, pepper, and ¾ cup Parmesan in a food processor until very finely ground. Transfer to a shallow bowl.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Place flour in another shallow bowl and eggs in a third shallow bowl. Working one at a time, dredge eggplant slices in flour, then dip in egg, allowing excess to drip off. Coat in breadcrumbs, packing all around, then shaking off excess.
Place on parchment-lined baking pans.
Bake eggplant for 15 minutes, turn and bake for 8 minutes more until eggplant is brown and crispy.
Lower oven to 350F.
Toss chopped herbs, low-moisture mozzarella, and remaining ¾ cup Parmesan in a medium bowl. Spread 1 cup sauce over the bottom of a 13×9″ baking pan; top with a layer of eggplant slices (trim as needed). Drizzle 1 cup sauce over and sprinkle with one-third of cheese mixture. Add another layer of eggplant, followed by 1 cup sauce and half of the remaining cheese mixture. Repeat layers with remaining slices, sauce, and cheese mixture. Cover with foil and bake on a rimmed baking sheet until eggplant is custardy, 45–60 minutes.
Remove from oven and arrange fresh mozzarella over eggplant. Increase oven temperature to 425F and bake, uncovered, until cheese is bubbling and browned in spots, 15–20 minutes longer. Let rest 30 minutes. Top with basil leaves just before slicing.
Eggplant Parmesan can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool; cover with foil and chill. Reheat in a 350° oven, uncovering halfway through, until bubbling gently at edges.