You guys, I’m getting really giddy just writing about this.
It’s finally cold (aka under 70 degrees F) here in Los Angeles, which means…
I can use my oven!!
HELLO roasted chickens, braised pork butt, a zillion casseroles, lasagnas, enchiladas, BREAD & other baked goods.
I can hardly contain my excitement.
To celebrate, I made a classic:
*Cue singing* “Eggplant Parm you taste so good.”
And I have to say, it’s pretty drool-worthy.
Lots of gooey, bubbly cheese, rich marinara sauce, and tender slices of breaded eggplant.
It’s a great change-up from regular lasagna.
It sits a little lighter on the stomach as well, since you’re layering vegetables, rather than pasta.
This recipe is a little labor intensive, so it’s perfect for a long rainy weekend, or family dinner night.
You can get the whole family involved by setting up an assembly line! One person dredges the eggplant slices in flour, one dips them in an egg bath, the next coats them with panko, and the last person pan fries them to golden perfection. If you have younger kids, they can help with the assembly by sprinkling cheese or basil on each layer as it comes together. Working as a family speeds up the entire process & gets everyone super excited to try the finished dish. Yep, eggplant and all!
- 2 lbs eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch thick (about 2 large)
- Kosher salt, for seasoning
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- Splash of milk or cream
- 3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil, divided
- 2 (25 oz ) jars of your favorite marinara sauce
- 2 lbs freshly shredded low-moisture mozzarella cheese
- 3/4 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
- 1 (15 oz) can black olives, sliced (kalamata olives work well too)
- Start by laying the eggplant slices out on paper towels. Sprinkle them liberally with kosher salt, and let them sit for at least 1 hour to help draw out excess moisture & reduce the bitterness of the eggplant. If you watch closely, you’ll see little beads of moisture leaching out from the eggplant while it sits. (Hooray powers of osmosis!)
- Once the eggplant has been sitting for at least 1 hour, use a paper towel to dab off the excess water and salt & set the eggplant aside while you prep for assembly.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Set out one 9×13 baking dish, or two smaller 8×8 baking dishes.
- Place the all purpose flour on a shallow plate and set aside.
- Crack the 4 eggs into a medium bowl, add a splash of milk or cream, and beat with a fork or whisk until smooth. Set aside.
- Place the panko on a large plate or dish, and add the dried oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese. Use your fingers to toss until evenly combined. Set aside.
- Now get ready to dredge the eggplant! Have a large plate or platter ready to set the coated eggplant slices on before frying (you will have to work in batches unless you have a lot of helpers).
- Start by placing the eggplant on the plate of flour & turning it over to evenly coat all sides. Next, dip & completely submerge the flour-coated eggplant slice in the bowl of beaten eggs. Pull it out of the egg mixture & let the excess egg drip back into the bowl. Place the eggplant slice on the plate of seasoned panko, and turn to coat evenly on all sides. Use your hands to pat the panko onto the eggplant as needed.
- Place the panko-coated eggplant on a large plate or platter, and continue until you have coated enough of the eggplant slices to pan-fry one single-layer batch.
- Add a few glugs of grapeseed oil to a large nonstick skillet. You want enough to coat the entire pan & leave about 1/4 inch of oil for pan-frying. Heat over medium-high heat until shimmering (resist the urge to add the eggplant before the oil is very hot, or else it will absorb the oil & become a soggy mess).
- When the oil is hot, add the eggplant in a single layer. Pan fry for about 3 minutes on each side, or until the panko is nice and golden on each side. Remove from the pan & place on a paper towel lined tray.
- Repeat this entire process until all of the eggplant slices have been coated and pan fried. I recommend wiping out the skillet between batches & using a new pour of oil to prevent bits of burnt panko from sticking to the eggplant slices.
- Coat the bottom of your baking dish or dishes with a thin layer of marinara sauce. Add one layer of fried eggplant slices, coat liberally with about 1/3rd of the mozzarella cheese & parmesan, 1/2 of the fresh julienned basil, and 1/2 of the sliced olives. Coat again with marinara sauce & repeat one more time (eggplant + cheese + basil + olives + sauce). Next, lay the third and final layer of eggplant slices down & coat simply with marinara & cheese.
- Place in the oven & bake for about 40 minutes, until the cheese is gooey & slightly browned, and the sauce is bubbling. If yours hasn’t browned to your liking, you can place it under the broiler for a few minutes to get a nicely browned top.
- Remove from the oven & let rest for a few minutes. Slice & serve with a fresh salad or easy green vegetable side. (I served it with steamed green beans drizzled with high quality olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and flaky maldon sea salt).