Eggplant Parmesan aka Eggplant Parmigiana (Vegetarian) – Recipe

Eggplant Parmigiana
Eggplant Parmigiana

This eggplant parmigiana is one of my favorite celebratory dishes for late summer, when the eggplants and tomatoes are at their very best. I use canned tomatoes for the sauce, and a dice of fresh heirloom cherry tomatoes and basil on top, after it comes out of the oven. The combination of fresh and cooked tomato flavor is unbeatable.

At the market, look for eggplants that are very dense. When you pick one up, you should feel surprised at how heavy it is. I don’t bother with salting and draining eggplants for most dishes, but for this one it makes a big difference. You don’t want a bunch of liquid coming off of the eggplant when it is in the oven, making the breading soggy.

Japanese panko breadcrumbs work fantastic for this dish, because they fry up so light and crispy. You can find them at Asian grocery stores, and I’ve also seen them at better mainstream markets lately.

Accusations that I would eat this cold for breakfast the next day are completely unfounded. It is always gone long before then.

Eggplant Parmesan (or Eggplant Parmigiana)
Serves 6 as a main course

3 large or 5 smaller globe eggplant, about 4 pounds total
kosher salt
2 cups canned crushed Italian tomatoes (San Marzano preferred)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup flour
4 eggs, beaten
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
two handfuls of fresh basil, roughly chopped, divided
1 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1.5 cups diced heirloom tomatoes (cherry or full size)

  1. Peel eggplant and slice lengthwise in scant 1/2″ thick planks. Layer in a colander or on a cooling racks, with a heavy sprinkling of kosher salt in each layer, top with a plate and weight with some cans, and let drain for at least 30 minutes. Wipe off excess salt with a paper towel.
  2. Make a quick tomato sauce by sauteing the garlic in the olive oil and adding the diced tomatoes, and reducing a bit while you make the rest of the recipe. Don’t add salt because the eggplant will still have residual salt from the draining process.
  3. Set up for dredging, with plates for the flour and panko, and a shallow bowl for the egg. Also, get a rack or sheet pan covered with paper towel to receive the booty. Get out and butter a large baking dish and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. Put a good 1/4″ of vegetable oil (not olive oil, it will smoke too much) in your biggest skillet and and heat on high. Working with two slices of eggplant at a time, pat them in the flour until they have a dry coating, then drag through the egg, and finally press both sides in the panko, covering thoroughly. Place them in the skillet, where they should start sizzling immediately. Fill the skillet loosely, leaving yourself some room to work. Flip when brown, maybe 2 minutes, then remove to the paper towels when brown on the other side. They should be tender to a fork at this point, because the oven baking is just to melt the cheese, not cook the eggplant.
  5. To assemble, lay down your first layer of eggplant, and top each slice with a couple tablespoons of tomato sauce, a piece of mozarella, a bit of parmesan, and a bit of basil . Build up three layers using all of the ingredients and finishing with cheese.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the cheese it thoroughly melted.
  7. To serve, put a healthy stack on each plate, and top with about 1/4 cup of the diced heirloom tomatoes, any remaining basil, and a grind of fresh pepper.Eggplant_fried_6


Eggplant Parmesan on Foodista

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Tuesday, August 14th, 2007 in Main Courses, Recipes.

21 Responses to “Eggplant Parmesan aka Eggplant Parmigiana (Vegetarian) – Recipe”

  1. Reply
    August 14, 2007 at 8:00 am #

    This sounds fantastic. I was surprised that you used high heat to fry the eggplant – does that really cook it through without burning? I can’t seem to fry eggplant, no matter how low the heat, without setting off the smoke alarm. I use olive oil (not extra virgin, just regular) – do you think veg. oil would do the trick?

    I haven’t tried panko on eggplant, but I will definitely try that next. I like to mix in some herbs with my breadcrumbs, especially herbes de Provence with a little extra dried lavender. Something about the sweet lavender makes the eggplant seem even sweeter.

  2. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    August 14, 2007 at 8:28 am #

    Hi Anne – yes, I think if you switch to an oil that has a higher smoke point you’ll get better results. Spectrum Organics makes a canola oil that is specifically for high heat that I find works very well. For this recipe on my stove, I want to be just about 1 notch under maximum heat, but of course it may vary based on your burners and pan. Herbs de Provence in your breadcrumbs sounds delicious!

  3. Reply
    September 7, 2007 at 11:02 am #

    Thanks for the tips- I wouldn’t have thought to salt the eggplant first. We’re having this for dinner more often!

  4. Reply
    October 15, 2007 at 10:17 am #

    Looks delicious – sadly there’ll never been anything ‘parmesan’ in our kitchen as my boyfriend is lactose intolerant! I do like the panko crust idea!

  5. Reply
    November 15, 2007 at 9:19 am #

    Radish: If your boyfriend is really lactose intolerant (rather than unable to eat dairy products for other reasons), then hard cheese shouldn’t be a problem, as the lactose is all consumed by the cheesemaking process. I’m not sure how the mozzarella would go down, though.

  6. Reply
    November 8, 2008 at 4:26 pm #

    Umm this recipe sounds delicious and Yummy! I just bought an eggplant today, I’ll definetely make this recipe tomorrow. I love eggplant parmigiana but I have never made it and the recipe you gave it sounds so simple. Fajard

  7. Reply
    May 24, 2009 at 8:31 pm #

    Hi Michael, I have made a few of your recipes before and they’ve been delicious but I wasn’t so happy with the results of this one made worse by the fact that I made this for dinner guests. It came out too dry and we couldn’t really taste the eggplant. Maybe too heavy on the breadcrumbs? I’m not exactly sure where I went wrong but if I was going to make it again I would slice the eggplant thicker and use either more sauce or not reduce the sauce as suggested. Thanks for posting this but I think I’ll stick with the Vietnamese Lemongrass Green Beans and Tofu…yum!

  8. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    May 24, 2009 at 9:44 pm #

    Hi Malinky – sorry this one didn’t work out for you. Thanks for letting me
    know. I published that recipe a couple of years ago, so maybe it is time to
    revisit it this summer and double check everything. I’ll let you know if I
    discover anything amiss.

  9. Reply
    Kirsten Maile
    June 16, 2010 at 10:33 pm #

    Amazing 🙂 I just made it this evening for roommates and boyfriend. I think I’ll be wedded soon…haha

  10. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    June 17, 2010 at 6:40 am #

    Allright! Our first Herbivoraciou-induced engagement 🙂 🙂

  11. Reply
    August 24, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

    mmmm Just made this with my first eggplant from my little container garden on my balcony in Montreal. Complete with basil from the garden and homemade tomato sauce with tomatoes from the local market. Paired it with a little salad with veggies from the market, edible flowers from my garden, and a homemade orange-mint dressing with mint from the garden. (and a gin and mint drink of course). Perfect perfect meal.

    Days like these make me fall in love with food over and over and over again!

  12. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    August 27, 2010 at 8:55 pm #

    Thanks Renee! I'm glad it was a hit, and the rest of your menu sounds great.

  13. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    September 13, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    I just retested this, and added the new photo at the top. I think you are right that the eggplant should be a little thicker, so I adjusted that. Everything else worked out how I like it, but of course not every dish will be to everyone’s liking. I appreciate your feedback as always!

  14. Reply
    September 30, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    my husband and I despise eggplant but it came in the CSA box so I decided to try this out. it was SO DELICIOUS – we loved it. salting it and wringing the water out really helped with the bitterness that turns us away. thanks for sharing!

  15. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    September 30, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    I'm so glad it was it a hit for you, and that you took a chance on using a vegetable you don't generally like!

  16. Reply
    Sarah Hammond
    January 3, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    So, I don’t cook well. I get overwhelmed with having too many ingredients, tasks, things cooking at once..BUT I made this and even though I’m pretty sure I didn’t do it right, it was still the best thing I have ever cooked in my entire life! Also, I so did eat this cold for breakfast the next day.

  17. Reply
    March 11, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    I thought parmesan isn’t vegetarian?

    • Reply
      March 11, 2012 at 9:10 am #

      Quite right. True parmigiano-reggiano is always made with animal rennet. I, like many vegetarians, choose not to let this particular detail go. I pretty much will eat any kind of cheese. If you want animal-rennet free cheese, in general you’ll have to do a fair amount of research. Microbial and vegetable rennets are often cheaper than animal rennet, so even cheeses that aren’t specifically labeled are often safe in practice. Hopefully your cheesemonger will know.

  18. Reply
    July 9, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    My husband of 34 years has always said he hates eggplant. I know he has not triedit since we have been married. He planted a garden this year and I convinced him to plant some for me. I picked my first one today along with a huge zucchini, so I plan to make this recipe with one end being eggplant and the other zucchini….wonder how it will go over. I have fresh mozarell, basil and tomatoes to top it off. I think he will love it. Well, better get to work!

  19. Reply
    October 23, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    So I made this dish one night after work (with chicken in addition to the eggplant for the non-veggie lovers in my house), and I made the unfortunate mistake of misreading your instructions to give the eggplant a “heavy *sprinkling*” and gave it a heavy rub, instead. Even though I wiped off as much salt as I could, it was far too salty to eat. Luckily, the chicken parmesan was divine, and I was sad that I ruined the eggplant.

    So now for my question so I don’t mess it up next time: what constitutes a heavy sprinkling? When do you cross the line into a heavy rub? Should I be tasting the raw eggplant to make sure I haven’t over salted?

    • Reply
      October 24, 2012 at 7:51 am #

      Hey Miranda – a sprinkling would be a healthy pinch of salt on each layer of eggplant. Don’t rub it in, or as you say, you’ll never be able to wipe off the excess. I think that will work much better for you!

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