Eggplant Parmigiana Recipe: A Vegetarian, Pasta-Free Alternative to Lasagna

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Bubbling cheese, savory marinara sauce, and a hint of pan-fried, herby deliciousness: Eggplant parm has it all. Plus, this layered, roasted eggplant parmesan recipe gives us the best of two Italian food classics: lasagna and other types of parmigiana like chicken and veal. 

What do we get when these two traditional dishes come together in one glorious meal? The result is baked casserole-style comfort food – much like lasagna – with all the flavor but not an ounce of pasta. Eggplant parmesan is proof that not all good things need to involve pasta. 

We’ve sung its praises, but what is eggplant parmigiana, or eggplant parmesan? Parmigiana, as you may have guessed, widely refers to a dish cooked with parmesan cheese. Other sources say the term comes from a word in a Sicilian dialect of Italian that refers to layers

If anything, eggplant parmesan’s disputed origin points to the legendariness of this dish and the passion people have for it. And, just like the differing etymologies, there are various preparation methods, from eggplant-stuffed grinders to more traditional eggplant parmigiana like the one we’ll show below. 

Eggplant parmigiana recipe


Preparation time:

For homemade marinara sauce (optional): 5 minutes

For eggplant parm: 45 minutes 

Cooking time:

For homemade marinara sauce (optional): 2 1/2 hours

For eggplant parm: 1 1/2 hours

Total time: 

With homemade sauce: 4 hours 50 minutes 

With store-bought sauce: 2 hours 15 minutes 

Servings: 12

Ingredients

For homemade marinara sauce:  

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 56 ounces canned whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt

For the breaded eggplant: 

  • 4 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise (about 1/2–3/4 inches thick)
  • Salt
  • 3 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 large eggs, beaten to blend
  • 3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil

For layering:

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped basil and parsley
  • 1 1/3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or try cheddar for a variation) 
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced 
  • 3/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
tanacha – stock.adobe.com

Preparation instructions

Make the marinara sauce: 

Note: There’s nothing quite like homemade marinara, but if you can’t make this absolutely delicious but time-intensive version, you can always go with a quick recipe like this one. Alternatively, buy your favorite ready-made sauce at the grocery store or get something homier from a local vendor. 

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. 
  2. In a Dutch oven or similar heavy ovenproof pot, heat the oil over medium heat on the stove. 
  3. Cook the garlic. Be sure to stir frequently because garlic sticks and burns easily. 
  4. Add in the onion and red pepper flakes and continue to cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add the tomato paste and continue stirring for two minutes. 
  6. Add in the wine and continue cooking until almost completely evaporated.
  7. Add in the tomatoes, breaking them up with your hands, and all the liquid from the can.
  8. Add in the basil and oregano and mix. 
  9. Add three cups of water. Chef’s tip: Gather up all the dregs of that delicious tomato juice left inside the empty can by pouring the water into it, swirling it around, and then pouring that liquid from the can into the pot. 
  10. Add salt to taste, but don’t overdo it. The liquid will reduce in the oven, and you may end up with a very salty finished product if you’re heavy-handed.
  11. Put the Dutch oven in the oven and let it cook for two hours, stirring halfway through. The top of the sauce should be a bit browned, and the consistency should be thick. 
  12. Let the sauce cool, and then pulse it a few times in a food processor to break down any large chunks of tomato. 
  13. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Pan fry the eggplant: 

  1. Salt the eggplant slices lightly and place in a single layer a clean cloth or paper towels. Then, place something heavy on top of the eggplant slices like a casserole dish. Leave them this way for 45 minutes and watch how the salt helps magically draw the water from the eggplant, ultimately giving it a meatier, richer texture that fries and bakes well. 
  2. While you’re waiting for the salt to draw the water out of the eggplant, prepare your breading mixture by pulsing together the panko, oregano, pepper flakes, and Parmesan in a food processor. Then, move the mixture to a bowl.
  3. Fill another bowl with the flour. 
  4. Fill another bowl with the eggs. We recommend lining up these three bowls in an “assembly line.” Here’s the order: flour, egg, breading mixture. 
  5. Preheat your oven to 350°F. 
  6. Working one eggplant slice at a time, dip first in flour, then in egg, then in breadcrumbs. Place the coated pieces to one side, on a plate or wire rack. 
  7. Heat 2/3 cup oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook as many eggplant slices as will fit in the pan, working in batches. You can add more oil as needed. For each round, cook until the eggplant is golden on one side (around two minutes) and then flip the pieces to brown the other side. If your skillet starts to accumulate little burned pieces, carefully wipe the pan out with a paper towel because these dregs can give your dish an unwanted smoky flavor. 
  8. Place the fried eggplant on paper towels to soak up excess oil. 

Assemble and bake:  

  1. Combine the herbs, shredded mozzarella, and remaining Parmesan cheese in a bowl. 
  2. It’s time to layer. Spread out one cup of sauce on the bottom of a 9-by-13 baking dish and then top with a layer of eggplant. Then, add more sauce and some of the cheese mix and repeat. Cover with foil and bake for 45–60 minutes. Want professional-level results? Put a cookie sheet under your baking dish in the oven, which will give the meal a better overall texture. 
  3. Remove the baking dish from the oven, take off the foil, and place the slices of fresh mozzarella on top. 
  4. Turn up the temp to 425°F and continue baking uncovered until the top layer of cheese is perfectly gooey and bubbly. Then, remove the dish from the oven (don’t forget your oven mitts) and let cool to a safe temperature for eating.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit 

Nutritional values per serving

Calories: 675

Fat: 41 grams

Carbs: 57 grams

Protein: 21 grams

lilechka75 – stock.adobe.com

Useful tips for the perfect eggplant parmigiana

  • Make the sauce ahead so that you’re not in the kitchen for a long time when making the eggplant parm itself. 
  • Choose your eggplant well. Look for shiny pieces that are not too hard but not soft either. 

Storing and reheating leftovers instructions

  • Once your eggplant parm is thoroughly cooled, store it in an airtight container and put it in the refrigerator or freezer. You can thaw frozen eggplant parmesan by heating it directly in the oven or moving the container to the fridge for several hours and warming it in the microwave.

Eggplant parmigiana FAQs: 

Do you soak eggplant before frying?

Some recipes do call for soaking eggplant, including in milk. However, in this tutorial, the only prep work you need is to slice and salt the eggplant as shown above to draw water from it, thus improving the texture. 

What do you eat eggplant parmigiana with?

This is a rich dish, so we recommend serving it with a fresh, crisp salad with a light, tangy dressing like Balsamic. 

Why do you soak eggplant before cooking?

Some recipes call for soaking eggplant to make it less bitter

Do you need to peel eggplant for eggplant parm?

Not always. In fact, a bit of crispy eggplant skin can be delicious. However, this recipe calls for peeled eggplant. We recommend following the instructions in whatever other recipe you choose to prevent any burning or unwanted flavors. 

What are some alternative versions of eggplant parm?

Try out eggplant parmigiana from Jamie Oliver, eggplant parmigiana pizza, or roll ups. Short on time? Try a speedy, easy eggplant parmesan recipe like this one.

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