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.
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 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 casserole 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.
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!
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Eggplant Parmesan, Baked Italian Style
- 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
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.