I was a little skeptical about an eggplant parm recipe that called for baking rather than frying, but I’ll do just about anything to avoid splattering grease all over my kitchen. Plus, baking is healthier! Surprisingly, neither of us could detect much of a difference at all – the use of Panko breadcrumbs definitely upped the crunch factor, and the addition of sauce and cheese makes it hard to tell what’s going on under there anyway (let’s just be honest).
I served this with a side of my trusty lentil pasta with Rao’s Arrabbiata sauce, but you could definitely use regular pasta too. In fact, you don’t really even need pasta at all – you could do a double dose of veggies with some roasted broccoli, or serve just the eggplant with maybe a nice green salad.
Baked Eggplant Parmesan
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 1/4 Cups Panko breadcrumbs
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt, plus additional for sweating eggplant
1 jar pasta sauce (I used Rao’s Three-Cheese for the eggplant)
1 ball fresh mozzarella (if you’re near a Trader Joe’s, they have a super handy pre-sliced version – otherwise, just slice the ball into several sections and tear slices into chunks)
2/3 cup grated parmesan
Fresh basil, torn into strips (I didn’t have any, so I left it off)
Place eggplant rounds on a couple layers of paper towels and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt; flip and repeat on second side. Let sit for 30 minutes to an hour, then rinse rounds and pat dry. This will leach out some of the eggplant’s bitterness and moisture and improve the texture (skipping this step will leave your eggplant a little on the spongey side).
Pre-heat oven to 425; line a large baking sheet (or two small baking sheets) with parchment paper.
In a shallow bowl, combine Panko, 1 tsp kosher salt, oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder. Beat eggs in a separate bowl. One by one, dip eggplant rounds in egg, then Panko mixture to coat. Place rounds on parchment lined baking sheets.
Spray each round with cooking spray and bake in pre-heated oven for 20 minutes; flipping halfway (spray the other half of the rounds with cooking spray after flipping). Once 20 minutes is up, switch the oven to its broiler setting and broil the eggplant for a minute or two on each side until golden brown (broilers’ heat settings will vary, so keep an eye on it – it’ll brown pretty quickly). Remove from the oven and set aside.
Spread 1/3 of the jar of sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan. Place a layer of eggplant rounds (the pan should fit about 1/2 of the eggplant) on top of the sauce, then spread another third of the sauce on top of the eggplant, followed by 1/2 the mozzarella and 1/2 the parm. Stack the remaining eggplant rounds on top of the cheese and top with the remaining sauce, followed by the rest of the mozzarella and parm. Sprinkle with half of the fresh basil, if using.
Bake 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown. Remove from the oven and serve immediately (garnished with the remainder of the fresh basil).