Ridiculously Good Baked Eggplant ParmMonday, October 15, 2012
This Eggplant Parm is a game changer. I mean it. It is one of the BEST THINGS I’VE EVER MADE. (Sorry, I’ll stop shouting at you now. I’m excited.) But no, seriously, it is ridiculously good. The kind of good that people swoon over. In-laws, significant others, discerning foodies, staunch meat-lovers, genuine Italians…no one is immune to the deliciousness of this parm. Is your mama famous for her eggplant parm? Well, not to start anything, but…this one might be better!
I know, you’re asking me right now, “But Steph, what about the Eggplant Parm of My Dreams you wrote about before?” Well, I’ll never turn down a dish of the Testaverde’s eggplant parm – NEVER – but truth be told, this Baked Eggplant Parm is the last recipe I’ll ever need for this dish.
The recipe is adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cooking for Two (2011). I adjusted it to accommodate six servings rather than two…because trust me, you are going to want more than two servings of this.
The biggest difference between this Baked Eggplant Parm versus the traditional version is that the eggplant is ROASTED rather than DEEP FRIED. With a few tricks, though, you won’t even miss the extra calories, let alone the hassle and mess of battering and frying.
I start out with 4 large Japanese eggplants. I prefer Japanese eggplant to Italian because they have a thinner skin and have never let me down with their sweet flavor and silky texture. Cut the eggplant into ¼-inch slices and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Now roast the eggplant slices in high heat so that they crisp up and get all golden and yummy. If you have multiple baking sheets now is the time to break them out because you’ll have to do a few batches to get through all of the eggplant. This is the most time consuming part…but trust, it is well worth it.
While the eggplant is roasting, you can get started on the tomato sauce. It’s a simple homemade sauce of crushed tomatoes, basil, garlic, EVOO, and a touch of sugar.
Once that’s done, start getting your other ingredients together for assembly. A mixture of ricotta and grated parmigiano will had luscious creaminess to our parm.
And shredded mozzarella cheese of course brings the melty cheesy gooey factor. Now it’s time to assemble.
Start with a layer of the tomato sauce, then eggplant, more sauce, ricotta mixture, and mozzarella. Repeat eggplant, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella. Cover the dish with foil and bake until bubbly.
Now here comes the best part: the crunchy panko topping.
This topping of super crunchy panko breadcrumbs, garlic, parmigiano, and EVOO is what gives you that satisfying crisp, without any frying. Sprinkle this mixture over the eggplant parm and put it back in the oven, uncovered, until you have a glorious, golden brown beauty.
As if the off-the-charts deliciousness wasn’t enough…this Eggplant Parm is also a great make-ahead dish. My friend, Lauren, recently had a beautiful baby boy and I took part in a meal registry (adorably called MealBaby) to help the new mama out.
I am now going to post a gratuitous cute baby pic because I just can’t help myself.
Thank you for your indulgence. Let’s carry on now, shall we?
For making ahead, I simply prepped the dish all the way up to the baking part, and kept the panko topping in a separate container to be added when they were ready to cook it. Although Baby Chase couldn’t enjoy the parm quite yet, I bet Mom and Dad enjoyed a home-cooked meal…cooked by someone else
Baked Eggplant Parm
Made with roasted eggplant and a crunchy panko topping, this Baked Eggplant Parm has all the delicious comfort and crisp of the traditional version without the hassle and mess of battering and frying. Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two (2011) to accommodate six servings rather than two, because trust me, you are going to want more than two servings.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Yield: 6 servings
- Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and brush the parchment with olive oil.
- Cut the eggplant into ¼-inch slices and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Flip the slices over and repeat, so now both sides of the eggplant are oiled and salted. Roast until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes, flipping the eggplant halfway through. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool while you prepare the remainder of the ingredients. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F.
- In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with 3 teaspoons of the garlic over medium heat. Let cook until the garlic is fragrant and starting to toast. Add the tomatoes to the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the sugar. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, then add the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, 1 cup of parmigiano, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Assemble the Eggplant Parm: spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, followed by half of the roasted eggplant, 1 cup more tomato sauce, half of the ricotta mixture and half of the mozzarella. Repeat: eggplant, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, remaining 2 teaspoons garlic, 1/4 cup parmigiano and panko. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Once the filling is bubbling, take the casserole out of the oven, remove the foil and sprinkle the panko mixture evenly over the top. Continue baking, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown and crisp, about 20-25 more minutes. If the topping is not browning, drizzle a little olive oil over the top and place under the broiler (keep an eye on it, it'll brown quickly under there). Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
- Make Ahead Note: This is a great dish to make ahead. Make everything through Step 5. Cover the assembled Eggplant Parm with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator up to two days before serving. I usually prep the panko topping as well and keep this in an airtight container in the fridge. When you're ready to bake the dish, bring it to room temperature and continue with Steps 6 and 7.