Baked Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
Food is powerful. Italian food most often has the biggest punch and lends to creating intense food memories.
I have a funny story about the power of this baked eggplant parmesan recipe. It almost got me married. A long time ago when I first moved to California, I had the biggest crush on someone who didn’t know at the time, he would have the same crush on me, eventually.
One night I invited him over for dinner and served this traditional baked eggplant parmesan recipe. He brought a bottle of chateauneuf du pape, which for a 22 year old, was fairly sophisticated. Back then 22 year olds drank beer and tequila.
He would often remind me that had it not been for that eggplant parmesan, he might not have asked for a second date. Then again, I’m not so sure he wasn’t try to win me over with that wine!
That night I made traditional, breaded, fried eggplant parmesan, and made it many times throughout that three year relationship. I never married him, although he wanted to. I have a feeling eggplant parmesan still has a special meaning for him to this day.
I continued to made this eggplant parmesan for years. Then I stopped making it, which is total shame, because this is one of best Italian comfort food dishes. It’s one of the dishes my relatives in Sicily made for us when we visited. It’s one of the dishes my Aunt Rita was known for, and I still have memories of making it with her. To that, I’m bringing it back and including a healthier, low carb option.
There are two ways to make this baked eggplant parmesan recipe.
I remember growing up and eating the breaded fried version. I also remember visiting relatives in Italy and eating the breadcrumb free, grain free, version.
Both are good. Both have their own taste profile. The choice is up to you.
The Baked Eggplant Parmesan Recipe Process
The best way to make both versions is to begin with salted sweated eggplant.
Use firm, fresh eggplant. Marcella Hazan, in her book, Ingredients, says to feel the eggplant. It should feel spongy. It should spring back to the touch, be glossy taut, completely smooth. It should feel light. If it’s heavy, it has too many seeds.
Lay out cloth or paper towels. Slice eggplant medium thickness. Salt liberally, place on paper towels. An hour turn over, and use more paper towels to get out the moisture. If you don’t do this, the eggplant could be bitter and absorb the oil you fry it in and become very greasy. This is an important step.
Traditional American Breaded Eggplant Parmesan
Once your eggplant is “fry” ready, dip it into beaten egg, and then Italian bread crumbs. You can vary this. You can use flour or gluten free flour. You can even use corn meal. The traditional way is to use Italian bread crumbs, but this is your eggplant. You could bake the eggplant, but I never do that. Frying is easier, and tastier in my opinion.
Traditional Italian Eggplant (Grain Free Version)
I discovered that eggplant and other vegetables like this fried cauliflower will yield to a bit of crispiness if you fry them in egg white. I imagine it’s the protein that does the job.
This is what my grain-free eggplant looked like.
I deep fried the eggplant after first dipping it into egg white wash. It will actually get slightly crispy like this cauliflower did in this recipe. The real key first is to make sure you heavily salt the eggplant and let it sweat out. I do this for a few hours. Some do it only for 30 minutes. You must do this or the eggplant will absorb all of your oil in minutes.
I used this tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, but feel free to use any kind of mozzarella and also use some pecorino cheese or real parmesan, freshly grated.
When making this baked eggplant parmesan recipe, know that you can make it traditional with breadcrumbs and there is a gluten free bread crumb option. You can also go completely grain free.
- 2 eggplants
- 4 eggs (may use less)
- 2 cups Italian Style Bread Crumbs (order here)
- or 2 cups gluten free Italian Bread Crumbs (order here)
- 4 cups tomato sauce (recipe here)
- 1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
- olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil for frying
- Optional Grain Free Eggplant
- Slice eggplant. I like it medium thick, about ½ inch. You may choose thicker.
- Sweat the eggplant. Lay out on cloth or paper towels and salt heavily on both sides. Use more cloth or paper towels to absorb the liquid.
- Beat 2 eggs. You may not need all four so beat more as you need them.
- Add salt and pepper into eggs.
- Dip into egg, then breadcrumbs and fry eggplant over medium heat in oil of your choice until golden brown on each side. Drain on paper towels.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Put tomato sauce in bottom of baking dish.
- Layer eggplant with sauce and mozzarella cheese. You can choose to make one layer, two layers or three layers.
- Bake until to layer is completely melted and slightly golden brown. Allow to rest 10 minutes before cutting.
- Sweat eggplant as above.
- Use egg white. Mix egg white with one tablespoon water.
- Season eggplant with salt and pepper.
- Dip into egg white.
- Fry in high heat oil for a few minutes each side.
- Drain on paper towels.
- Continue with directions above, starting with preheating oven to 400 degrees.