I know I’ve been writing a lot lately about the concept of baking instead of frying. At the risk of beating a dead horse, I have one more point to make on the subject. Let’s discuss the ultimate classic Italian comfort food, parmigiana. In this case, eggplant parmigiana.
I never quite understood why the eggplant in eggplant parm needs to be fried at all. The purpose of frying anything is to develop a nice crispy crust so the food crunches when you bite into it. You take the time to bread all of these little rounds of eggplant, fry them in hot oil, only to turn around and kill the crisp coating with soggy tomato sauce and globs of melted mozzarella cheese? What gives?
There’s certainly a time and a place for frying. This isn’t it. It just isn’t necessary. I’ve tried those diet cookbook attempts to make a parmigiana without the breading at all. That’s taking it a bit too far. Just cut one large eggplant into rounds. Coat them lightly in egg, then seasoned breadcrumbs and bake the slices at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes on a cookie sheet. Flip them half way through cooking so both sides brown.
I’m sure everyone’s Italian grandma has their own take on this dish. Here’s my spin. For the sauce, I mix an 8 oz. can of plain tomato sauce with 2 cups of my favorite pasta sauce. My favorite pasta sauce happens to be my own. Humble, I know. It’s the typical “Sunday gravy” type of red sauce cooked for hours with meatballs, sausage…the works. The little can of plain tomato helps thin it out a bit and disperse some of the meaty flavors.
I layer the eggplant slices with the sauce mixture in a 1-1/2 quart CorningWare baking dish and top with 1 cup of reduced fat mozzarella and 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees until the cheese is bubbling.
You’ll end up with a delicious Italian feast with plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day. Serve the meal with a side salad instead of greasy garlic bread and you’ll have a stick-to-your-ribs dinner people will want you to make again and again.
* Get cooking. Let me know what you think. Love it? Hate it? I’m interested in hearing your feedback and suggestions.