One of the most popular items among family members that I cook is eggplant parmesan. I bring it to family birthday parties, holiday parties and other family gatherings, where I always leave with an empty pan.
Eggplant parmesan or parmigiana di melanaza is a classic southern Italian dish, particularly in Sicily. Eggplants like warm and dry climates, so southern Italy is an ideal native ground for this plant. Eggplants are used in a variety of dishes– in pasta, on pizza, in spreads, in salads, among other things. It’s truly a versatile vegetable.
In Episode 3 of our show, we walk through how your prepare the fresh eggplant, battering and frying the eggplant, assembling the dish and finally, baking to perfection. We hope you enjoy the show and will give the recipe a try. Please share any comments.
The recipe shared in this episode makes enough for 5-7 people (or more depending upon how many servings and how hungry your guests are). You will 2 fresh eggplants (1 large, 1 small/medium sized), 28 ozs of tomato sauce (be sure to prepare it as shown in Episode 1 (without the meat in the sauce), 2-3 cups of seasoned breadcrumbs, 2 eggs, salt, pepper, 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, 3 cups of fresh shredded mozzarella, approximately 3-4 cups of water in a bowl, and lots of olive oil (as much as needed for frying). You will also need a 8 x 11 inch (2 quart) pan for cooking. If you’d like to make a larger dish (which I usually do), simply prepare more eggplants, up the amount of ingredients and use a bigger pan!
Preparing the Fresh Eggplant
Peel the 2 fresh eggplant, removing all the skin. Once all the skin is removed, getting a sharp knife and cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch slices. Place the eggplant slices into a large bowl of salt water (you’ll need about 3 -4 cups of water with about 3 teaspoons of salt dissolved in). Let all of the eggplant slices soak in the salt water for about 5 minutes. The goal is to soften the eggplant up so you can more easily remove the seeds, as well as to make the eggplant softer for frying. Once done soaking, take a knife and scrape the seeds off of each of the eggplant slices. The seeds are bitter and you should seek to remove as many as possible before cooking. As you finish removing the seeds, place each eggplant slices on paper towels, drying them all around.
Batter and Fry the Eggplant Slices
Before battering and frying, prepare your tomato sauce. You should prepare it the same way as we reviewed in Episode 1. Keep it on a very lower simmer on the stove while you batter and fry the eggplant slices.
Take your 3 cups of seasoned breadcrumbs and place them in a large flat dish. Crack and beat the 2 eggs into a dish, adding salt and pepper. Take an eggplant slice with a fork and coat it in the egg. Once fully coated with the egg, place it in the breadcrumbs, ensuring it is fully coated in breadcrumbs. Repeat until all the eggplant slices are fully coated in breadcrumbs.
Get a large frying pan, and place it on the stove at medium heat. Add olive oil. You want to be sure to have enough oil to get a good frying process going– too little oil can burn the eggplant, so be careful. Keep adding enough oil so the frying process continues without burning the eggplant.
Once the oil is nice and hot, add your eggplant slices, covering the pan. Cook each slice until golden brown on each side, then place onto a dish with paper towels (you can layer the eggplant slices on top of one another with paper towels in between each layer). If the olive oil becomes “dirty” or in other words, there are a lot of residual breadcrumbs pieces mixed in, swap out the dirty oil for fresh olive oil.
Layer the Eggplant in the Pan
Now you’re ready for the fun part (or the next fun part!). There is no science behind how many layers of eggplant you should have for the perfect eggplant parmesan– just layer it until you reach the top of the pan.
Take your pan and coat the bottom with some of your tomato sauce. Take an eggplant slice, coat it in tomato sauce, then place it in the pan. Repeat with each slice until you’ve fully completed the layer. Before going onto the next layer, sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese (or pecorino romano) over the layer, as well as sprinkle the fresh grated mozzarella cheese over the layer. Build the next layer, repeating the process of adding the grated parmesan and shredded mozzarella in between each layer. When you reach the top layer, top it off with the parmesan cheese and mozzarella. Add some tomato sauce along the sides of the dish (don’t place any on top!). That’s it! Now you’re ready to bake it.
Baking the Eggplant Parmesan
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Place your pan of eggplant parmigiana into the middle of the oven. Let it bake for about 20 minutes, rotating about halfway through. I like to get a nice golden brown, crispy layer on top, so I move it to the top shelf of the oven after the 20 minutes is up, for about another 5-7 minutes. Keep a close eye on it, making sure it doesn’t burn. Once crispy on top, you’re ready to serve!
Make sure you serve the eggplant parmigiana hot! It’s easy to re-heat if it cools down, which you can do in the oven. You can serve with some tomato sauce on the side, as well as grated parmesan cheese. It goes great with red wine. Buon appetito!