Italian at its (vegetarian!) finest.
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, fried eggplant parmesan recipe. This late-summer Italian-American specialty tastes absolutely delicious, a perfect combination of breaded and pan-fried eggplant slices layered with fresh marinara 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 recipes for some variation of eggplant parmesan. Usually touted as faster or lighter than versions such as, say, this one, these eggplant parm recipes may taste good. These recipes may even more healthy and easy to prepare. But ultimately, they are eggplant parm “lite.”
So this eggplant parmesan recipe is the real deal: the old-school, fried eggplant parmesan you’d see at your Italian-American grandmom’s table, or at the neighborhood Italian restaurant, inevitably served with a big ol’ side of spaghetti, garnished with some parsley.
Recipe Notes: Old-School, Real-Deal Eggplant Parmesan
I make no claim that this is a healthy recipe. I mean, yes, tomato is a vegetable. Eggplant is a vegetable. But that eggplant gets sliced, salted, coated in egg and simple carbohydrates, and fried. Oh, and then it gets layered with cheese and baked. So this is not a health recipe.
Nor do I claim that this eggplant parmesan recipe is easy. The recipe is not technically difficult, but it is time consuming. 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, breadcrumbs), and pan fried. Then, the fried eggplant is layered with marinara and cheese, and baked for 30 minutes. All told, you are looking at about two hours.
I cannot guarantee this recipe’s speed or health benefits. 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!
Grandmom-Style Eggplant Parmesan
- 1 large eggplant
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs, whisked
- 2 cups plain breadcrumbs (I prefer panko)
- 3 cups marinara or other tomato sauce (recipe linked below)
- 1 1/2 cups freshly-shredded low-moisture mozzarella
- fresh black pepper
- neutral oil, such as canola, for frying
- 2 large pinches grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese
- 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.
- Pour yourself a glass of wine, put on some Rat Pack greatest hits. Make your marinara. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Set up three flat-bottomed bowls (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 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.
- Spoon a thin layer of marinara into the bottom of a lightly-greased casserole pan. Layer fried 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.