Eggplant Parmesan is hands down my favorite meal of all time. I love everything about it. I’m always hesitant to order it at a restaurant because it takes a lot of time and effort and you can definitely tell when people take shortcuts. For me it’s all about consistency. This recipe is a lot of work, about two hours in the kitchen, but the result is mouthwatering and totally worth it. I’ve seen recipes where people just bake it and skip the frying part, but I promise you it’s worth it to take the extra time to make this dish the right way. Eggplant is a very watery vegetable so it’s essential to get some of the water out, otherwise you end up with a yucky texture. I cut the eggplant and then dust it with ground sea salt, as you’ll see in the picture below the salt sucks the water out of the eggplant. Another way to make your life easier while making this recipe is to set up a nice prep station. Get all of your ingredients out and ready to go and make sure you clean up after yourself as you go, otherwise it can be overwhelming. You will be multitasking, so establishing a clean functional prep space is clutch. I was thoroughly ecstatic about the way that this eggplant parm turned out and if you’re in the mood to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty (with breadcrumbs) I promise you it will be so worth it!
1.) Start by cutting the eggplant, lay the pieces out on and dust with sea salt- let them sit for at least 30 minutes or until you see the water come out.2.) If you’re going to make homemade marinara follow this step, if not please skip to step 3. Drizzle some olive oil on a large skillet and turn the heat to medium. Add the halved onion, celery, bay leaves and garlic, fresh basil and parsley, dried Italian herbs and let cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes and simmer for at least an hour and half. When pouring the sauce on the eggplant just use the red sauce, avoid the onion, garlic, celery and bay leaves.3.) Once the eggplant has been sitting for at least 30 minutes pat eggplant with paper towels to absorb the water. Set yourself up with a nice work area, take 5-6 eggs and whisk in a bowl. Take the Italian breadcrumbs, Italian panko breadcrumbs and flour all equal parts and mix together (you can use just breadcrumbs- I just find this mixture to result in the perfect consistency.) 4.) Dip the eggplant in the eggs and then coat in breadcrumbs (*Tip- after a while the breadcrumbs can get clumpy- I dump them out and make a new mixture about halfway through to ensure a nice even coat. It’s also helpful to do this right near the sink so you can rinse your hands off when you need to.) Spray the breaded eggplant with a light coat of olive oil spray on both sides.
5.) Get two skillets out and coat with vegetable over medium to high heat. Once the oil is warm add the eggplant. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the eggplant is golden brown and then flip and cook on the other side. Set the fried eggplant off to the side and repeat this step until all the eggplant has been fried. (*Tip- you will have to reuse the skillets since there will be a lot of eggplant. Run some water in on the skillet in between rounds and add new oil to keep the oil fresh.)6.) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take your favorite pan and spray with olive oil, take the fried eggplant and put on the bottom of the pan. Add sauce (just enough on each layer to cover the eggplant,) cheese (desired amount,) fresh basil and repeat until you get to the top of the pan! I had about 4-5 extra fried eggplants that I just set aside. 7.) Cover the eggplant with aluminum foil and place in the lower rack and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Uncover let rest for about 5 minutes and ENJOY the fruits of your labor.