A recipe for baked Eggplant Parmesan just might become your winter dinner staple. It’s easy to assemble and even better, there’s no frying required—the eggplant is as light and crispy as can be.
What goes with Eggplant Parmesan? Other than a glass of red, how about a simple green salad tossed in a Red Wine Vinaigrette? Or a quick appetizer of Homemade Olive Tapenade on crostini or crackers—easy but so good! For more great Italian dinner recipes, keep looking until here!
When you're in the mood for Italian comfort food, nothing compares to luscious, crispy layers of breaded eggplant baked under tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. It's a labor of love that always required the eggplant to be deep fried in a lot of oil, in batches, a few slices at a time. In other words, a Big Project.
However, this recipe for healthy Eggplant Parmesan bakes the breaded eggplant slices all at once in just a small amount of oil, with amazing (crispy) results thanks to the high heat of the oven. No soggy, oil-laden eggplant. No guilt. Yes to room for seconds.
It does require some steps, because no matter how you look at it, Eggplant Parmesan is still a labor of love. But this one is better for you, more delicious, and requires much less clean-up and stove time--even with a homemade tomato sauce.
Making Eggplant Parmesan for two, or for a room full of expectant moms? Click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
Eggplant Parmesan in Italian:
In Italy, this classic dish is called Parmigiana di melanzane.
Does Eggplant Parmesan induce labor?
Seriously— the best question on this blog!
Hundreds of pregnant women have reportedly gone into labor shortly after eating Eggplant Parmigiana at Scalini’s, a family-style Italian restaurant in Cobb County, Georgia.
Some moms-to-be, desperate to give birth at 39 weeks, have received this passed-down wisdom over the years and tried it. The resulting “eggplant babies” are proof that it could very well work! Of course, with that much garlic and dairy, it’s entirely possible that a baby would decide that maybe it’s time to enter the world, after all.
How to salt eggplant:
Do you have to salt eggplant?
Some cooks swear by salting down eggplant before cooking with it. Salting the slices gets rid of any bitter liquid in the eggplant and lets it rise to the surface of the slices, where it can be rinsed or wiped off.
However, this step is debated, because today’s eggplants are bred for mild flavor with less bitterness. Yesterday's eggplants, notsomuch. They probably needed salting.
In other words, if you’re pressed for time, you could probably skip this step and experiment with making the recipe with unsalted eggplant. (Please write about it in the comments!)
But if you want to make it according to the recipe, here's how:
- Sprinkle salt generously over the slices and place them over the sink in a colander for about 40 minutes or so. You will notice light brown droplets of liquid form on the exterior of the eggplant.
- Then rinse them under cold water if needed, place the slices on paper towels, and pat them dry, pressing gently, to dry them out.
- After that, the eggplant is ready for dredging.
Do you peel eggplant for Eggplant Parmesan?
Nope! Keeping the slices on the thin side (about 1/4”) means that the skins won’t put up a fight when you’re serving up the dish.
How to make quick tomato sauce:
You can make your own sauce for Eggplant Parmigiana, or just use your favorite brand of store-bought tomato or marinara sauce. For this recipe, buy a 32-ounce jar. It's fine to go with the store-bought sauce--make it as easy as you like.
- To make the quick tomato sauce, heat some olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, then add whole garlic cloves and sauté the garlic until browned, but not scorching—3 to 4 minutes. Take out the garlic and throw it away.
- Next, stir in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, herbs, sugar, salt, and pepper and simmer until the ingredients have blended together, about 10 minutes.
- Keep the sauce warm until you need it, or make it ahead for Eggplant Parmesan over the weekend.
How to make Eggplant Parmesan:
Admittedly, making Eggplant Parmesan without frying requires a little assembly line on the kitchen counter. But once you get the eggplant in the oven, it’s smooth sailing from there on out!
These photos take you through the steps, which is helpful for this recipe. For exact quantities of ingredients, refer to the recipe card below.
- First, cut the eggplants into 1/4” slices. No need to peel the eggplant! Then toss the eggplant slices in some salt and let them sit in a colander for 40 minutes.
- While the eggplant is doing its stuff, make the sauce or set up your work station.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the oven racks to the lower-middle and upper-middle positions, and place a rimmed baking sheet on each rack, to warm up. This step keeps the eggplant from getting soggy by absorbing too much oil while the oil is cool.
- You need a large zipper-top plastic bag and two shallow dishes or bowls to prepare breaded eggplant. Add the flour and some pepper to the bag. Then, add eggs to one shallow dish and lightly beat them. Finally, add breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to the last dish.
- Once all this is done, working with about eight eggplant slices at a time, place them in the bag of seasoned flour. Gently shake the sealed bag to cover them. Then shake off any extra flour.
- Next, dip the floured slices into the eggs. Pull them out of the eggs and let the extra egg drop off each slice.
- After the egg dip comes the breadcrumbs. Gently press the breadcrumb mixture into the eggplant slices.
- Repeat these steps with all the remaining eggplant. As you work, place the breaded eggplant onto a wire rack until everything is ready to go into the oven.
- When ready to bake the eggplant slices, remove the heated baking trays from the oven and pour 3 tablespoons of oil onto each sheet. Carefully tilt the tray around to move the oil around on the tray.
- Then arrange the breaded eggplant in a single layer on the baking sheets. Bake the eggplant at 425 degrees until the slices are well-browned and crisp looking on top, about 20 minutes. Then flip the eggplant and bake until the second side is brown and crispy, about 10 minutes.
- Remove the eggplant from the oven and you can start making the Eggplant Parmesan casserole.
How to prepare the Eggplant Parmesan:
- Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Next, arrange half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, slightly overlapping (like roof shingles). Spoon more tomato sauce over the eggplant, then spread half of the mozzarella cheese over that.
- Add the remaining eggplant in another overlapping layer, then spoon on more tomato sauce. This time, don’t cover the eggplant with sauce—you want to leave some of it crispy.
- Sprinkle on some grated Parmesan cheese and the rest of the mozzarella.
- To bake the Eggplant Parmesan, place the casserole on the lower middle rack of the oven and bake at 425 degrees until the cheese bubbles and browned on top, about 15 minutes.
- Sprinkle basil over the top and serve, passing any extra tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese on the side.
Can you freeze Eggplant Parmesan?
Yes! It seems to work better if you freeze the dish before the final baking stage. If you’re left with a ton of Eggplant Parm, well then, just portion it, wrap it up, and freeze it to enjoy later.
To freeze Eggplant Parmesan, assemble the casserole but do not bake; wrap tightly with aluminum foil and freeze, up to 3 months.
Bake Eggplant Parmesan frozen directly into the pre-heated oven set to 425 degrees, allowing extra time for cooking.
Eggplant Parmesan variations:
- Meat. Use a homemade meat sauce instead of tomato, or go big and add crumbled Italian sausage (pre-cooked, please) to the casserole.
- Eggplant Parmesan without breadcrumbs. Go gluten-free and substitute your favorite brand of GF breadcrumbs for the breading.
- Ricotta cheese. If you have it, dot the eggplant with fresh ricotta cheese along with the mozzarella. You'll love how creamy it is.
- Pasta. A big bowl of buttered noodles on the side to soak up all that sauce.
Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
For sweating the eggplant:
- 2 large eggplants 2 pounds, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
- 1 tablespoon Salt
For the tomato sauce (or substitute 1 (32-ounce) jar store-bought):
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and smashed
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes undrained
- 1 teaspoon sugar optional
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Eggplant Parmesan:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large eggs
- 4 cups bread crumbs or panko
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese grated (3 ounces)
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil (see notes)
- 4 cups quick tomato sauce (recipe above) or 1 (32-ounce) jar store-bought
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese shredded (8 ounces)
- 10 fresh basil leaves for garnish, optional
To sweat the eggplant:
- Toss the eggplant with 1 tablespoon salt and let it drain in a colander for about 40 minutes.
To make the quick tomato sauce (or substitute 1 (32-ounce) jar store-bought):
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add garlic cloves and sauté until browned, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove garlic and discard.
- Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, sugar (if using), basil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste (I like 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until flavors have blended, about 10 minutes.
- Keep warm over low-heat until serving time, or cool completely and store covered in the refrigerator.
To make the Eggplant Parmesan:
- Adjust two oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions, and place a rimmed baking sheet on each rack. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
- In a large zipper-top plastic bag, add flour and pepper to taste (I like 1 teaspoon). In a second shallow dish, add eggs and beat lightly. In a third shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, 1 cup Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine.
- Spread drained eggplant over paper towels. Wipe away as much salt as possible and press firmly on each slice to remove as much liquid as possible.
- Working with about 8 eggplant slices at a time, place them in the bag with the flour. Seal and shake until thoroughly coated. Remove from bag, shake off any excess flour, and dip into eggs. Remove from eggs, allowing any excess to drop off, and coat evenly with the breadcrumbs, pressing them to adhere.
- Lay the breaded eggplant on a wire rack and repeating with remaining eggplant rounds.
- Remove preheated baking sheets from the oven. Pour 3 tablespoons of oil onto each sheet, tilting to coat the sheets evenly. Spread breaded eggplant in a single layer over the preheated, oiled sheets.
- Bake until the eggplant is well browned and crisp on the first side, about 20 minutes. Flip the eggplant slices over. Switch and rotate the baking sheets, and continue to bake until the second side is browned, about 10 minutes longer.
- In the bottom of a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish, spread 1 cup tomato sauce. Shingle half of the eggplant slices over the tomato sauce. Distribute 1 more cup of the sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the mozzarella.
- Shingle the remaining eggplant in the dish and dot with another cup of the sauce, leaving the majority of the eggplant exposed so that it will remain crisp. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella.
- Place the dish on the lower-middle rack of the oven. Bake until cheese is bubbling and well browned, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the basil over the top and cool for 10 minutes before serving. Pass the remaining 1 cup tomato sauce and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese separately.