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Eggplant Parmesan, Baked Italian Style

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Italian at its (vegetarian!) finest.

This baked eggplant parmesan recipe is the real deal: individually fried eggplant rounds layered with mozzarella and tomato sauce and baked to oozy perfection, just like your Italian grandmom used to make it. 

eggplant parmesan recipe baked with mozzarella

Meet This Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

It is a huge misconception that vegetarian food is not as satisfying or filling as meat. For proof, look no further than this hot, cheesy, baked eggplant parmesan recipe. This late-summer classic Italian dish tastes absolutely delicious, a perfect combination of breaded and pan-fried eggplant slices layered with fresh marinara sauce and plenty of melted mozzarella, baked until bubbly.

You’ll also like: Classic Italian Meatballs and Late Summer Minestrone

fried eggplant slices and cheese in casserole dish

Fried Eggplant Parmesan vs. Unfried Eggplant Parmesan

There are a lot of eggplant parmesan recipes out there. Variations touted as easy, faster or lighter than versions such as, say, this one, these eggplant parmesan recipes may taste good. These eggplant recipes may even more healthy and easy to prepare. But ultimately, they are eggplant parm “lite.”

So this eggplant parmigiana recipe is the real deal: the old-school, fried Italian casserole recipe you’d see at your Italian-American grandmother’s table, or at the neighborhood Italian restaurant, inevitably served with a big ol’ side of spaghetti marinara, garnished with some parsley and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or pecorino-Romano.

fried baked eggplant parmesan recipe with sauce and cheese

Eggplant Parmesan: Recipe Notes

This baked eggplant parmesan is not technically difficult, but it is time consuming. But it’s so worth it!

  • The eggplant needs to be peeled, sliced, salted, and patted dry.
  • Then, each slice gets individually dipped in a series of three separate elements (flour, egg, and breadcrumbs, each in a shallow bowl), and pan fried.
  • After that, the fried eggplant slices are layered into a baking dish. Then, you’ll layer the eggplant slices with homemade marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, and baked for 30 minutes. All told, you are looking at about two hours.
  • Do not use fresh mozzarella, which has too high of a water content. Use low-moisture mozzarella.
  • Top with some fresh basil leaves or Italian flat-leaf parsley if you’d like a pop of color. I do not recommend oregano, which has a strong flavor best reserved for pizza.

I cannot guarantee this recipe’s speed or that it’s a super easy eggplant parmesan recipe. But I can guarantee that this is one of the best eggplant parmesan recipes you will ever have. So I’ll leave you with two words: Worth. It.

How do you make your eggplant parmesan? Share below!

baked fried eggplant parmesan with sauce and cheese

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eggplant parmesan recipe baked with sauce and cheese

Eggplant Parmesan, Baked Italian Style

The real-deal. Eggplant parmesan, baked with tender eggplant that's breaded and fried, then layered with marinara and good, melty mozzarella cheese.
Prep Time45 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Course: dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keywords:: casserole, eggplant, eggplant parmesan, italian, parmesan, tomato sauce, vegetarian
Servings: 6 people
Print

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 2 cups plain breadcrumbs (I prefer panko breadcrumbs)
  • 3 cups marinara or other tomato sauce (recipe linked below)
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly-shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese
  • fresh black pepper
  • neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, for frying.
  • 2 large pinches grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, parmesan cheese, or Pecorino-Romano cheese, for serving
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley or fresh basil, optional, for serving

Instructions

Prep the Eggplant and Make Your Marinara

  • Peel the eggplant and slice it horizontally into slices no more than 1/4" thick.
  • Line a half-sheet pan or large baking pan with paper towels. Lay the eggplant in a single layer and salt generously, front and back. Do another layer of paper towels if necessary. Let the eggplant sit for about 30 minutes. This is a good time to make your marinara and get your mise en place set up for the frying.
  • Make your marinara. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bread and Fry the Eggplant

  • Set up three shallow bowls (wide soup or salad bowls work great): one with flour, one with whisked eggs, and one with breadcrumbs.
  • Pat the eggplant dry of excess moisture. The salt should have dissolved and mostly absorbed into the eggplant. This is why you don't need extra salt in the recipe. Reserve the sheet pan and line it with fresh paper towels.
  • Working one at a time, dredge the eggplant slices in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, coating fully and shaking off the excess.
  • Heat enough oil in a large skillet to be about 1/8" high in the pan, or slightly less, over medium to medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add a few eggplant slices and cook them until golden brown on each side, about three minutes per side. Watch the temperature of the oil. You may need to adjust the heat a little as you go. Drain the cooked eggplant on the paper towel-lined sheet pan.
    PRO TIP: How do you know the oil is ready? It should be about 350°F. But I don't use a thermometer. I look to see if the oil is shimmering, and drop a pinch of breadcrumbs into the oil. They should sizzle. If the oil is smoking, it is way too hot.
    PRO TIP: Do not use olive oil for frying. Olive oil, while most associated with Italian food, has too low of a smoke point for frying.

Assemble and Bake the Eggplant Parmesan

  • Spoon a thin layer of marinarasauce into the bottom of a lightly-greased casserole dish. Layer enough fried breaded eggplant slices to cover the bottom. Do another ladle of marinara over the eggplant. You do not have to fully coat the eggplant. Dollops are fine. Sprinkle a generous amount of the mozzarella.
    Repeat, layering the eggplant, marinara, and finishing with the mozzarella. Add the large pinches grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese.
  • Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve hot, preferably with a side of pasta marinara, a sprinkle of chopped Italian parsley or fresh basil, and additional grated Italian cheese.
    PRO TIP: I like to place my casserole pans on a rimmed baking sheet for easier removal from the oven, and to catch any sauce or cheese that might bubble over -- unlikely here, since the casserole should still have a rim.

Notes

A note about assembling and prepping the eggplant parmesan in advance: 
You can prep and assemble the eggplant parm up to one day in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bake the eggplant, uncovered, directly from the fridge. From chilled, the eggplant will take about 45 minutes to bake. Insert a butter knife into the center and feel it to make sure the center is fully heated through before serving.

13 comments

  • Patricia Worthington

    I need to paste this to Pinterest.

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Patricia! No problem. If you look right under the title, you’ll see three small pink boxes: one for facebook, one for pinterest, and one for email. Pinterest is the center button with the P. Let me know if you have any issues! All the best to you.

  • Terry P.

    5 stars
    Ok. I will first say that I almost did not make this recipe because it seemed like a lot of work to cut and salt and fry and assemble and bake…etc. However, I am so glad I did and just want to say how good this was and we all thought it was just like you’d eat at a good restaurant. So this is not a weeknight dinner, but it was excellent and we will make this again. I confess I used jarred marinara!

  • Rebecca

    I love this dish and have been searching for a recipe. How far in advance can it be assembled before cooking?

    • Unpeeled

      Hi, Rebecca! I hope you enjoy. This is one of my favorites. Because the eggplant is fried, the result will be best if you assemble it shortly before baking. The longer it sits, the more soggy things will become. I think that several hours in advance is fine, though. And if you like, you can assemble everything and freeze it. Then bake it directly from frozen, adjusting the time. It will take AROUND 25% longer, but that’s just an estimate. Insert a knife into the center and make sure it comes out clean and hot.

      • Rebecca

        Perfect thankyou very much. I will let you know how it turns out.

  • Michael Lagana

    5 stars
    Excellent recipe for eggplant parmagina .

  • Jenny R.

    5 stars
    This tastes just like my mother’s. Takes a little bit of time, but it’s not hard. I look forward to making this again next summer.

  • Theresa Douglas

    5 stars
    THIS IS WONDERFUL. I admit I cheated a bit and used jarred Rao’s sauce, but did everything else from scratch. This reminds me of a good Italian restaurant meal at home.

    • Unpeeled

      Hah! No worries. Rao’s is my “cheat” sauce of choice as well!

  • 5 stars
    I made this over the weekend as Sunday dinner and 1) It does take a while but 2) It was absolutely fabulous and well worth it. Everyone was “mmmmm”-ing the whole time.

  • 5 stars
    I enjoy egg plant parm, but I have always been intimidated by the prospect of making it; it never seems to turn out right. My daughter and I tried this recipe last night for our family. It was absolutely amazing. And easy! Finally!

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