I will be honest right now: this Eggplant Parmigiana is a recipe I’ve posted before. It was way, way back in the dark ages of Smart Cookie when I was just starting out. I had only a few readers and crappy photography. That is precisely why it is reappearing now. I need you guys to experience this recipe; I don’t want a single one of you to miss it. My photography still isn’t stellar, but it beats how it was a year ago!
Now, let’s get down to why this Eggplant Parmigiana was worthy of a round-two. You see, I have love for a lot of foods. Don’t ever ask me to pick just one; that’s downright impossible. I do, however, have a select list of foods that I classify as “favorites.” There is something about this edible handful that ever so slightly stands above the rest, deeming those foods as what I would choose for a last meal. This Eggplant Parmigiana happens to rank in that VIP list. Honestly, it is hands-down the best eggplant parm recipe out there, and one of the best dishes I’ve ever had.
This is one of those dishes where, no matter how many times I make it, I never get sick of it. It is so incredibly good, it’s otherworldly. I think the Gods are jealous of this one. They’re like, “What the heck? Why don’t we have anything like that here?” It’s okay guys, I’m willing to share the recipe if you’re willing to put the love into making it.
Yes, this Eggplant Parm will require a bit of time and love, but there was never a dish so worthy of that energy as this. What sets it apart form other Eggplant Parms is going that extra-mile and putting tender love and care into each step. Good-quality ingredients are also a major contributing factor to the heavenly outcome: fresh mozzarella, quality provolone, freshly grated parmesan, and a sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes. Yes, the good-quality ingredient list will cost you a little bit more, but it is absolutely worth a little splurge. This ain’t no everyday dinner. It’s something truly special.
That being said, you don’t need a special occasion to make this Eggplant Parm. Dinner becomes a special occasion when you declare it an Eggplant Parmigiana night. My whole family likes to join in the kitchen and work together to make it. That makes this incredible meal all the more special and memorable. I guarantee that if you try it just once, it will automatically become a tradition in your house as well.
One forkful will make you melt. The eggplant is breaded and deep-fried to create a crispy, crunchy, golden shell that gives way to the tender eggplant encased within. The sauce itself is the best I’ve ever had. I don’t just use it for eggplant parm; it’s amazing on spaghetti as well. It’s sweet, tangy, and bursting with flavor from fresh garlic and onions. Using those good-quality San Marzanos really makes a difference. But my favorite part about the sauce is the heat it’s packing. Spicy little red pepper flakes add that kiss of kick. You won’t notice it immediately, but that spice gets you on the way down like a pleasant little surprise.
The best part of this towering casserole is the mound of fresh, ooey, gooey, melted cheeses. You never have to fear for a cheese-less forkful, nor will you find yourself needing more. There is a perfect, generous portion of cheese loaded in every bite and, my god, it is bliss. Fresh mozzarella as opposed to shredded brings something truly gooey and special, while provolone gives you something a little different, and parmesan gives classic tang. Cheese lovers, you have found your Cloud Nine.
I need you to make this Eggplant Parmigiana. It’s a very special recipe that has quickly become a tradition in my home, and will quickly become one in yours too. Even if you don’t like eggplant, I challenge you with this dish. It’ll convert any eggplant hater. It’s cheesy, saucy, hearty, and oh so comforting. You will eat an ungodly amount, and you will not feel the least bit sorry.
A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:
- If you don’t go for the good-quality ingredients, don’t expect high-quality results. Jarred sauce? Tastes like dirt compared to this stuff. Pre-shredded mozzarella? Tastes like feet compared to fresh.
- Don’t know where to buy the good cheeses? Your grocery store has a specialty cheese section that’s usually located by the deli.
- Prepare the dish earlier in the day then bake it later when you’re ready to eat. It’s much less stressful this way.
- You can take the skins off the eggplant if you like.
- If you’re cooking for two, cut this recipe in half.
- Leftover are awesome!
Recipe adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli
- 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, shredded
- 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. 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. 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: 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 fill about 1/2-inch deep. Heat the oil until it begins to smoke lightly. Use a pair of kitchen tongs to add a single layer of the eggplant to the pan. They should sizzle when you drop them in. If not, the oil is not hot enough. 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.
- 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. Cover with foil and place the dish in the top part of the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5-10 minutes more.
- Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.