If it’s possible to improve on crispy baked eggplant, then this layered eggplant parmigiana is the way. The eggplant, tomato sauce, and cheeses melted together will keep your friends and family coming back for more.
The ingredients are simple. The stars of the show are eggplant slices, breaded and baked to perfection. The recipe is just about the same as the one for crispy breaded eggplant. Using panko, Japanese style breadcrumbs. the slices get nice and crusty. Any part of the layered eggplant left uncovered by sauce and cheese keeps that crunch.
The co-stars are a simple red sauce made from canned tomatoes (or another red sauce if you prefer) and cheeses to melt the layers together. Homemade ricotta is easy and would definitely take your layered eggplant parmigiana (or eggplant parmesan) up a notch. However for this batch, I took a short cut and used store-bought. Add a few herbs and egg to the ricotta to flavor and loosen it up. With sliced or shredded mozzarella and a sprinkling of parmesan, you’re ready to layer away.
The layering is like the chorus to a song: a bit of sauce (on the bottom of the pan it keeps the eggplant from sticking), eggplant, sauce, cheeses, a few more spoonfuls of sauce and repeat. I find the rhythm rather soothing and the dish comes together easily once you’ve got the hang of it.
I don’t get too persnickety about the layers. If I’ve been heavy handed with an ingredient in one layer (usually one of the cheeses), I simply hold back on it in the next layer. After all, everything melts together in the end. When you grab a forkful, you’ll never know which layer an ingredient came from.
Think of layered eggplant parmigiana as the visual opposite of a classic napoleon or mille feuille. In that dessert each pastry and cream layer is distinct and the top has a uniform white base with chocolate swirls at regular intervals. By contrast, the layers of this dish melt together and a forkful is not a neat and tidy affair.
Don’t shy away from layered eggplant parmigiana if you’re in a a locale where its hot right now. Even in summer, it’s nice to have an occasional hot dish.
Why Make Layered Eggplant Parmigiana All Year Round?
- You can bake a tray of layered eggplant parmigiana in a toaster oven, like I do for stuffed mushrooms, as long as you don’t stuff the toaster oven tray too full. (I haven’t tried to use the toaster oven to make the eggplant slices, but they freeze well so you don’t have to make them the same day you layer the casserold.
- The casserole freezes well in portions tightly wrapped and dated, either unbaked or fully cooked. After defrosting them in the refrigerator or the microwave, you can bake or reheat them in the toaster. (Microwaving to reheat a fully cooked batch is OK. However, it tends to make the crust of the eggplant slices a big soggy.)
- If your kitchen is cool, air conditioned or naturally, you probably don’t mind using the oven in the warm months.
- If you bake desserts during the summer, you’re used to opening the closing the oven anyway:)
- If you’re a Sopranos fan, then you know that Carmela would make it for her family year round. Because, after all, what would a Sunday dinner with the family be without “eggplant parm?”
Layered Eggplant Parmigiana
- 2 inch medium eggplants peeled and cut into slices about 1/2-inch thick
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs divided
- 1/3 cup milk can substitute water
- 2 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs Japanese-style breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon salt divided, kosher or sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes crushed in your hands
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 - 5 cups Simple Canned Tomato Sauce from this blog or canned
- 1 pound mozzarella cheese thinly sliced or shredded
- 1 pound ricotta cheese
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 cup grated parmigiano (parmesan) cheese
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Set out the flour in a plate or bowl, 3 eggs and the milk or water in a bowl and the panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, black and crushed red pepper flakes in another plate or bowl. Dust each eggplant slice with flour, gently knocking off the excess, then dip it in the egg and milk or water mixture, and finally coat it with the panko.
- Put the slices on two parchment or silicon mat-covered sheet pans and drizzle them with half the olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes and turn them. Drizzle the slices with the rest of the olive oil and bake for another 10-15 minutes to brown them.
- When done, set the eggplant slices aside and turn the oven down to 375 degrees.
- Mix the ricotta, leftover egg mixture from the eggplant and the additional egg, plus the dried oregano.
Using a 9 inch x 13 inch baking pan, layer the eggplant, sauce and slices as follows
- 1/2 cup of sauce
- 1 layer of eggplant slices
- 1 cup of sauce spooned over the slices
- Slices or 1-2 handfuls of mozzarrella distributed as evenly as possible
- 1/2 of the ricotta and egg mixture spooned over the mozzarella
- 1/3 cup parmigiana cheese sprinkled over the ricotta mixture
- End with mozzarella and parmigiana
- Bake for about 30 minutes, until the cheeses are melting and the top begins to brown.
- Let the casserole sit outside the oven for 5-10 minutes before cutting into it.
Romano is a good alternative to parmigiana (also known as parmesan) cheese.
If baking the casserole in a toaster oven, you'll need to use the toaster oven tray and will only be able to fit about 1/3 of the casserole onto the tray. (It's easiest to make it in the 9" x 13" baking pan and transfer as many pieces as will fit easily onto the toaster oven tray. Put the rest away, either in the refrigerator or freezer for later.