Ridiculously Good Baked Eggplant Parm

Monday, October 15, 2012
Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

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!

best Eggplant Parm ever

The last recipe for Eggplant Parm you’ll ever need

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.

Baked Eggplant Parmigiano

Baked Eggplant Parmigiano

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.

Roasted eggplant

Roasted eggplant

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.

Japanese eggplant

Japanese eggplant are the way to go

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.

roasted Japanese eggplant

Roasted golden

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.

Tomato sauce from scratch

Tomato sauce from scratch

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.

Ricotta + Parmigiano

Ricotta + Parmigiano

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.

Shredded mozzarella

Shredded mozzarella

And shredded mozzarella cheese of course brings the melty cheesy gooey factor. Now it’s time to assemble.

Eggplant Parm: step by step instructions

Eggplant Parm: step by step instructions

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.

Panko topping

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.

Adorable Baby Chase

Boom. Too. Cute.

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

Best. Eggplant. Parm. Ever.

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

Ingredients

1/2 cup olive oil
3 lbs eggplant (about 4 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.)
(2) 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
5 teaspoons minced garlic (about 5 cloves), reserve 2 for topping
15 oz ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup + 1/4 cup grated parmigiano
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and brush the parchment with olive oil.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, 1 cup of parmigiano, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. 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.
  6. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

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45 Responses to “Ridiculously Good Baked Eggplant Parm”

  1. Lauren Offers says:

    FIVE STARS!!  This was by far the best eggplant parm I’ve ever tasted!!!!  A HUGE thank you to Steph who cooked if for our family right after Baby Chase was born.  I served it to my in-laws (who are Canadians and avid meat lovers) and they couldn’t get over how good this dish was and without any meat!!  I wanted to take credit, because they were so impressed with the flavor, but I graciously admitted the true chef behind the masterpiece!  Trust me, this parm will not disappoint!!

  2. Sandy says:

    I love eggplant parm!  Still haven’t tried your other recipe yet and if this is easier, I’m in!  Cute to see a baby in a button down…  Love the idea ofnpanko crust

  3. hua says:

    my mouth is watering…

  4. Sandy says:

    Wow, I finally made this and love it!  We’re still eating and I just had to tell you how awesome this was.  The eggplant was tender and silky, and it was totally not watery (a pet peeve)!  I also loved how the crunchy panko topping completely compensates for the unbattered and unfriedness of the dish.  The hubs is raving too, best ever!

  5. Jennifer says:

    I bought two italian eggplants for a buck at the local fruit stand and had to use them quickly. I didnt feel like going out into the cold for breadcrumbs and so I googled eggplant+panko and I’m glad i did. I agree, the only recipe i will use from now on! the addition of the ricotta really makes the dif!

  6. sara says:

    AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING!!

  7. Alyssa says:

    I made this last night and it was sooooo delicious.  I was looking for a good eggplant parm that was baked. I also love using panko when cooking.  Thanks so much!!

  8. Kim says:

    I could only find Italian eggplants:) hope it’s still yummy ! Do you live the skin of the eggplant on?

  9. Kathy says:

    I’ve been making mine almost exactly the same way for quite a while, except for the bread crumbs and ricotta- look forward to trying those. It’s so good roasted in the oven, really brings out the flavor of the eggplant- most people can’t believe it!

  10. Peter says:

    Fantastic.  Grad student quality of life definitely went up as a result of this recipe.  The ricotta/parm mix with the bread crumb topping is crazy good.

  11. Rose says:

    I love eggplant parmesan and this is a super simple, amazingly tasty & lighter recipe.  The technique is simple and preserves the flavors of all the ingredients. Definitely a keeper.

  12. cATHY says:

    Just made this for mine and my husband’s lunch. VERY TASTY. My husband is not an eggplant fiend like I am. He LOVED it. I grew the (Japanese) eggplants in our garden. I will definitely be making this again. Wonder if it would freeze well. I am a HUGE fan of FRIED eggplant parm, but this is to die for delicious!! Thanks for posting the great recipe

    • Stephanie says:

      Homegrown Japanese eggplant?! I’m so jealous! I’ve found that this does freeze well. Defrost it the night before in the fridge, reheat in the oven covered with foil until it is heated through, then uncover to crisp up the topping :)

  13. Pat says:

    Great recipe, best eggplant parm I ever had!

  14. Pat says:

    I do volunteer work at a hospital in central NJ.  The volunteer dept. is compiling
    a cookbook to raise money for the hospital.  I am requesting permission to submit the eggplant recipe from your website.  I would include your website as the reference for the recipe as I believe in giving credit where it is due.  I also found the pictures provided were extremely helpful.

  15. Regine says:

    Wow, this is indeed outstanding. Thanks for such a nice recipe. I could not find Japanese but Chinese eggplants which is what I ended up using. But I guess they are about the same. Also, I happened to have a batch of Marcella Hazan’s Tomato and Onion sauce (you can google it; it is very famous), and this is what I used in lieu of your tomato recipe. But i did add the garlic and basil called for in your recipe. Your instructions say to use 3 layers of 1/2 cup of the sauce so I used a total of 1 1/2 cup tomatoe sauce. To me, this dish tasted like a vegetarian version of lasagna. I LOVED LOVED IT!

  16. Katy Meehan says:

    Your baby is sooooo cute!! And the recipe came out great thanks a bunch

  17. Sona says:

    I could only find Italian eggplant- are there any modifications I should be aware of?!  Excited to make this tonight- thanks for sharing the recipe.

    • Stephanie says:

      Hi Sona,
      No major modifications, although you may want to peel the Italian eggplant since their skins tend to be tougher than the Japanese variety. Buon appetito!

  18. […] week that I wanted to try and since it fit the theme I made it for our New Year’s Day dinner, Ridiculously Good Baked Eggplant Parmesan. It’s a deconstruction of any eggplant parm I have tried to make and seemed more like lasagna […]

  19. Tina Preston says:

    OMG..seriously was AMAZING!!! Thanks so much for this recipe. Husband loved it!!!!

  20. Lori R says:

    I forgot the panko bread crumbs! Can I substitute regular Italian seasoned breadcrumbs?

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