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Eggplant Parmesan – Once Upon a Chef

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Settle in for the evening with this cozy, satisfying eggplant parmesan.

Eggplant Parmesan is a comforting layered casserole similar to lasagna, only with breaded and fried slices of eggplant replacing the noodles. The eggplant is shingled and layered in a baking dish with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, béchamel sauce, and Parmigiano Reggiano and then baked until bubbly and golden. The traditional preparation takes some time – particularly salting, breading, and frying the eggplant slices – but it’s worth it. Plus, my recipe uses a few smart shortcuts, like store-bought marinara and bread crumbs, as well as pre-shredded cheese, which make the dish a bit easier without sacrificing flavor. It is very important to salt the eggplant for at least 90 minutes before frying – this not only seasons the eggplant from the inside out but also draws out the liquid so it absorbs less oil and gives it a creamy, silky texture.

You may be wondering if you can bake the eggplant instead of frying it. The answer is that it will work if you use enough oil on the baking sheets, but I strongly recommend sticking with the traditional frying method, as it will give you the best result in terms of both flavor and texture. I serve eggplant parmesan as a main dish with a simple salad, but it can also be served as a side dish to meatballs, grilled steak, or Italian sausage.

slice of eggplant parmesan

What You’ll Need To Make Eggplant Parmesan

eggplant parmesan ingredients

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Salt the Eggplant

In a large bowl, on a baking sheet, or directly on a cutting board, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt evenly all over the eggplant slices.

salting eggplants on cutting board

Lay out a few layers of paper towels on a large cutting board or baking sheet. Arrange about one-third of the eggplant slices in a single layer and cover with more paper towels. Continue stacking the eggplant and paper towels, finishing with a final layer of paper towels. Let sit for 1½ to 2 hours. Press on the paper towels to absorb any excess liquid before proceeding.
stack of paper towels and eggplant slices

Step 2: Make the Béchamel Sauce

Béchamel sauce is not necessarily traditional in eggplant parmesan, but I love the richness it adds. It counters the acidity of the marinara sauce and also prevents the melted mozzarella cheese from turning rubbery.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, then add the flour.

melted butter and flour

Cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes.

whisking butter and flour

Add the milk and whisk until evenly combined.

whisking in milk

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Add the Parmigiano Reggiano, salt, and pepper.

whisking in parmesan cheese, salt and pepper

Whisk to combine and set aside.

finished bechamel sauce

Step 3: Bread and Fry the Eggplant

Combine the flour and ¾ teaspoon salt on a large plate. Whisk the eggs with 2 tablespoons cold water in a wide bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs with ¾ teaspoon salt on a large plate.

Lightly coat each slice of eggplant in the flour, shaking off excess.

dredging eggplant slice in flour

Dip in egg mixture, letting any excess drip off.

dipping eggplant slice in egg

Then dredge in the breadcrumbs, pressing with your fingertips so the crumbs adhere. (Use one hand for the dry ingredients – the flour and breadcrumbs – and one for the egg mixture – it’s much neater this way!) Set the breaded eggplant slices on a baking sheet.
dredging eggplant slice in breadcrumbs

Line another baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels. Pour enough oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to measure about ¼-inch deep and heat over medium heat until hot (if you dip a piece of eggplant into the oil, it will sizzle immediately). Working in batches, add as much eggplant as will fit in a single layer.

frying eggplant slices

Fry, flipping once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

golden brown eggplant slices in oilTransfer to the paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat, frying the remaining eggplant and layering it between sheets of paper towels to drain.
draining fried eggplant on paper towels

Step 4: Assemble and Bake

Preheat the oven to 425°F and set an oven rack in the middle position.

Spread ¾ cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish.

first layer of sauce in baking dish

Layer in one-third of the eggplant slices, overlapping the slices to fit.

first layer of eggplant in baking dish

Cover the eggplant with another ¾ cup of marinara sauce.

more sauce over eggplant

Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, then spoon one-third of the béchamel sauce over the cheese (if the béchamel has solidified a bit, it’s fine to add it in dollops; no need to spread it around).

cheese and bechamel layer

Repeat two more layers, leaving the edges of the eggplant exposed on the top layer to create crispy edges. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano Reggiano.

assembled eggplant parmesan ready to bakeBake until bubbling and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool, loosely covered with foil, for about 20 minutes, then scatter the basil over top (if using), cut into slices, and serve.

Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions

Eggplant parmesan can be made and assembled up to to 2 days before baking; it can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

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Eggplant Parmesan

Settle in for the evening with this cozy, satisfying eggplant parmesan.

Ingredients

For the Eggplant Parmesan

  • 2½ pounds eggplant (2 to 3 medium), eggplant (2 to 3 medium), trimmed and cut crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices
  • 2½ teaspoons salt, divided
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs
  • Vegetable oil, for deep-frying (about 3 cups)
  • 1 (24-oz) jar good-quality marinara sauce, such as Rao’s or Victoria
  • 3 cups (12 oz) shredded whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigianno-Reggiano
  • Fresh chopped basil, for serving (optional)

For the Béchamel Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups milk
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Salt the eggplant: In a large bowl, on a baking sheet, or directly on a cutting board, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt evenly all over the eggplant slices. Lay out a few layers of paper towels on a large cutting board or baking sheet. Arrange about one-third of the eggplant slices in a single layer and cover with more paper towels. Continue stacking the eggplant and paper towels, finishing with a final layer of paper towels. Let sit for 1½ to 2 hours. Press on the paper towels to absorb any excess liquid before proceeding.
  2. Make the béchamel sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the milk and whisk until evenly combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Whisk in the Parmigiano Reggiano, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Combine the flour and ¾ teaspoon salt on a large plate. Whisk the eggs with 2 tablespoons cold water in a wide bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs with ¾ teaspoon salt on a large plate.
  4. Lightly coat each slice of eggplant in the flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg mixture, letting any excess drip off, then dredge in the breadcrumbs, pressing with your fingertips so the crumbs adhere. (Use one hand for the dry ingredients – the flour and breadcrumbs – and one for the egg mixture – it’s much neater this way!) Set the breaded eggplant slices on a baking sheet.
  5. Line another baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels. Pour enough oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to measure about ¼-inch deep and heat over medium heat until hot (if you dip a piece of eggplant into the oil, it will sizzle immediately). Working in batches, add as much eggplant as will fit in a single layer and fry, flipping once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to the paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat, frying the remaining eggplant and layering it between sheets of paper towels to drain.
  6. Preheat the oven to 425°F and set an oven rack in the middle position.
  7. Spread ¾ cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Layer in one-third of the eggplant slices, overlapping the slices to fit. Cover the eggplant with another ¾ cup of marinara sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, then spoon about one-third of the béchamel sauce over the cheese (if the béchamel has solidified a bit, it’s fine to add it in dollops; no need to spread it around). Repeat two more layers, leaving the edges of the eggplant exposed on the top layer to create crispy edges. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano Reggiano. Bake until bubbling and golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool, loosely covered with foil, for about 20 minutes, then scatter the basil over top (if using), cut into slices, and serve.
  8. Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The eggplant parmesan can be made and assembled up to to 2 days before baking; it can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Information

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  • Per serving (8 servings)
  • Calories: 651
  • Fat: 36 g
  • Saturated fat: 20 g
  • Carbohydrates: 50 g
  • Sugar: 15 g
  • Fiber: 7 g
  • Protein: 33 g
  • Sodium: 1,297 mg
  • Cholesterol: 174 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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