Are you looking for something other than the traditional meals that you eat and make during EVERY holiday? Well, how about becoming Italian for a night?! A few years ago when I first got married one of the biggest problems I had was coming up with meals my man (all carnivore) and I (a vegetarian) could both enjoy. Finding a way to make a meal we both felt satisfied on also became quite the challenge. (I guess salads are not a meal for most men??) One day I was looking through recipes and found Eggplant Parmesan. Over the years, I have tweaked this to become my own recipe and even discovered the SECRET to making it the best you have ever had! If you have had this recipe before and found your eggplant to be bland and rubbery, this is the revamped version that will amaze you and leave your family begging for more! First, a list of ingredients you will need:
1 Large Eggplant (the purple kind that is found in the produce aisle, make sure it isn’t nicked or black)
8 ounces Fresh Mozzarella (the fresher the better, but buying the cheaper store kind like the one pictured is ok if you are on a budget)
8 ounce package of Fresh Parmesan (Do yourself a favor and do NOT use the chemical powder they sell in the dry goods aisle)
1 Package Fresh Basil (this should NOT be substituted for dried)
1 Small Tub of Ricotta Cheese
1 Jar of Newman’s Own Marinara (you can sub this BUT I have tried several different kinds and this is by far the best option)
1 Can of Italian Bread Crumbs (using panko or cornbread as a coating will change the flavor)
1 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (This is what I always use, not sure why my picture shows Canola. Lol. This amount is estimated and you should have plenty on hand to replenish as the eggplant soaks it up. Aim for about a ½ of an inch in the pan at all times.)
3 Large Eggs (beaten), 1 Cup of Milk, and 1 cup of All-Purpose Flour
And now we are ready to begin making this delicious dish!
STEP 1: Start by cutting the eggplant into even slices, about ¼ inch thick. I use even the small slices to fill in the gaps in the casserole dish, so don’t worry that the circle size differs. Just aim for the depth to be consistent. I personally do not peel my eggplant as it gives you something to use to turn over the eggplant while frying.
STEP 2: Pay special attention here because this is the secret trick to making this dish. Place all the eggplant slices on a cutting board or a clean space on your counter tops. Sprinkle the eggplant with salt. Yep, salt! Wait about 5 minutes and you should see water beading up on the tops. This is actually taking out all the bitterness of the eggplant to give it a better flavor. Simply towel blot the water off the slices and now you are ready to start battering them for the fryer!
STEP 3: Place a ½ inch of the olive oil in the pan. Place on medium-high heat. Make sure your oil is not too hot as this will turn the eggplant black, but if it isn’t hot enough, it will take forever to cook your eggplant.
STEP 4: Set up your battering station. This should include a bowl of milk, a plate of flour, the 3 beaten eggs in a bowl and lastly your bread crumbs. Make sure to have it in that order as the milk helps the flour stick, and the eggs help the crumbs stick. Place your first slices in the frying pan. Turn when those sides are a golden brown. (Usually a few minutes.) Cook all the slices and place on paper towels to soak up excess oil. I don’t always use every slice in the casserole dish, but will use the leftovers for sandwiches or cutting them up for salad toppings. (YUM!)
STEP 5: Now you are ready for layering inside the casserole dish. Place a fried eggplant slice on the bottom of the casserole dish. I usually use the largest slices for the most coverage and my dish uses about 4 per layer. Place a spoonful of ricotta on each eggplant slice. Cut the mozzarella into ¼ slices and place one on each eggplant. Then place one basil leaf on each eggplant. Then sprinkle Parmesan on each slice. Then top with some Newman’s marinara. Place another fried eggplant slice on top of the marinara and start the layering all over again until you reach the top and have no more room for eggplant. Cut the smaller eggplant slices and put them into the side cracks in order to get use of them and make bigger/heftier servings. I use the rest of the marinara on the top and add additional Parmesan to the top as well.
STEP 6: Place in 350 degree oven and bake for 40 minutes or until the marinara is bubbly and the cheese on top is melted.
Viola! Dinner is served and this is sure to be a crowd pleaser! Add a dinner salad and some garlic bread to complete your meal! Tell me what you think about my recipe! Any differences you noticed in mine you were happy to try?! I love to hear from my readers!! xoxo, Brooke