I know, you see the words “the best” and you’re like, “Psh. Yeah, okay.” Well, “the best” is certainly quite a claim to make, one that I don’t take lightly. Declaring something as “the best” is like saying “I love you;” you don’t just go tossing it around. But unfortunately, many people do. That is why we don’t always take such phrases as seriously as we should.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to launch into a lecture. I’m just trying to make clear that I mean business! This is some seriously good stuff, the best I’ve ever had. If you don’t believe me, then try it for yourself. I’m sure, after just one bite, you’ll agree!
This is a really special dish. My mom first made it for me, which makes it all the more near and dear to my heart. I usually like to do the recipe-testing, but it’s nice to have my mother make something special for me once and a while. Even better is when we cook together, as we did tonight. Those are the kinds of memories I’ll carry forever.
But enough about me. I like to spare you little cookies of the personal details in my life (like what I did today and how cute my dog is, etc.), because that’s not what this is about. It’s about the food. I do hope, however, that in sharing my personal attachment to this dish, you will better understand why it’s so sublime.
Now, if that’s not enough for you, then allow me to give you a few more reasons:
- There are 3 kinds of cheese at work here. Two are the typical eggplant parm contenders: mozzarella and parmesan. The third, however, is a newcomer: Provolone. This trio works together harmoniously for the most ideal cheese flavor you could ever dream of.
- Perhaps more importantly, all the cheeses are fresh. Using fresh mozzarella, fresh provolone, and freshly grated parm ensures the highest quality dish possible and some serious deliciousness.
- Oh, and did i mention there’s a MASSIVE quantity of all these cheeses? You are going to be in HEAVEN. No skimpy cheese here, just pure indulgence!
- The sauce is absolutely incredible. If I hadn’t used it for the eggplant parm, it would be fabulous on spaghetti. It’s sweet with a nice kick, and the flavor from the San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, and onion is amazing.
- Breading and frying the eggplant adds for an awesome crisp factor. Everything is better fried!
- Use of good quality ingredients means a good quality meal.
Is that enough reasons for you? Even anti-eggplanters will fall in love with the layers upon layers of cheese and delicious tomato sauce. Plus, breading & frying the eggplant helps disguise it too!
I hope you’ll find this recipe as special as I do. It’s possibly my favorite meal of all time, and that is no easy title to earn in my food-obsessed book. There’s so much cheesy goodness that you almost feel like you’re doing something wrong. You think something can’t possibly be this cheesy and delicious while existing any place besides heaven. Well, heaven didn’t mind sharing this beautiful dish with me and I sure don’t mind sharing it with you.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- I’m not going to sugarcoat this; This is a rather expensive dish to make between the Sans Marzano tomatoes & the fresh cheeses. Trust me when I say it’s worth it. The good-quality ingredients are what makes this dish so incredible. This is not a recipe to skimp on. It’s a special occasion dish, for sure.
- The bad news is that this Eggplant Parm is a bit time-consuming to make. There’s a lot of prep work. The good news is that you can make it ahead of time earlier in the day then store it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook. In fact, I recommend doing so. Make the sauce, fry the eggplant, layer it up, then stick it in the fridge. Don’t make it harder on yourself than you need to!
- This makes one big pot o’ parm! If you’re eating with a small family like me, eat half one night then freeze the other half for another night!
- Don’t skimp on the fresh cheeses! They make the dish.
- There’s a lot of prep! Get out everything you need, chop, and measure beforehand!
- The fried eggplant slices on their own make a GREAT appetizer. Fry ’em up and serve with marinara sauce for dipping. SO tasty!
Recipe adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli of Food Network
- Yield: 4 and 6 servings
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 medium yellow onions, peeled, halved, and cut into thin slices
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
- Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 (28-ounce) cans San Marzano whole plum tomatoes
- 2 medium eggplants, washed and cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds (about 2 1/2 pounds)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 5 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 4 cups Italian-style breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- Vegetable oil, for frying, as needed, about 1 1/2 to 2 cups
- 1 1/2 pounds fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 pound fresh provolone cheese, grated
- 2 handfuls fresh basil, leaves only, torn
- For the tomato sauce: Put the tomatoes in a blender or food processor and puree until it reaches your desired consistency. If you like chunky sauce, skip this step. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and season with salt and red pepper flakes. Cook until the onions become translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the sugar and the canned tomatoes. Use a wooden spoon to break up some of the whole tomatoes and cook 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat, stirring from time to time. Taste for seasoning, the tomatoes should be fairly broken down and the flavors coming together. Cook for another few minutes if the tomatoes still taste like they need a little more time to break down. Set aside to cool.
- For the eggplant: Arrange the eggplant rounds in a single layer on 2 baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt on both sides of each slice and allow it to sit for about 1 hour. Salting it draws out the liquid and bitter flavor. After an hour, rinse with cold water and dry them thoroughly with a kitchen towel.
- Put the flour in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk and season with salt and pepper. In a third bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with the oregano and fresh thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper. Dip each eggplant slice in the flour and shake off any excess. Then, dip in the egg mixture, and finally in the breadcrumbs. Make sure to coat both sides of each slice of eggplant. Arrange them in single layers on the baking sheets.
- In a large skillet, pour enough oil to accumulate about 1/2-inch in the bottom. Heat the oil until it begins to smoke lightly (alternatively, test with a thermometer and wait until the oil registers between 380 degrees F and 400 degrees F). Use a pair of kitchen tongs to add a single layer of the eggplant to the pan. Cook them until they are golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the oil and transfer to a baking sheet fitted with a kitchen towel so the eggplant can drain as the others cook. Season lightly with salt. Take care to reheat the oil back up to temperature before adding another batch of slices to the pan.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil on the bottom rack of your oven to catch drippings (this dish is likely to bubble over a little).
- To assemble: In a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, spoon about 1/4 of the tomato sauce on the bottom. Top with a layer of the fried eggplant; the eggplant slices can overlap slightly. Top with about 1/3 of the mozzarella slices. Sprinkle with about 1/4 of the Parmesan and provolone cheeses. Top with a layer of torn basil leaves. Spoon sauce and repeat the layering 2 more times to make 3 layers. End with the remaining mozzarella. (So, to repeat, the layers go: sauce, eggplant, mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, repeat. Be generous with that cheese!)
- Carefully press the layers down firmly into the dish once assembled. Place the dish in the top part of the oven and cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly, 35 to 40 minutes. For extra browning, put the dish under the broiler for a minute or two just before serving to get an extra brown cheesy top.
One sublime slice of heaven.