Before we left for Texas, one of our last meals in our old apartment was this lightened eggplant parmesan. I had actually made this recipe before, about a year or two ago, but finally got around to making it again and actually taking a picture of it. This was also a special request from my uncle since one of his favorite meals happens to be eggplant parmesan (he's also so easy to cook for since he seems to enjoy almost everything I make!). This is a lighter take on eggplant parmesan -- there's no frying and panko breadcrumbs only go on the top half of the eggplant. However, it's still delicious and four of us devoured almost the whole thing, with just a simple salad on the side.
I did some of the prep work in advance, which made meal time easy. You could even prep the whole thing in advance (and then bake it right before dinnertime), although the breadcrumbs won't be as crispy. I stopped short of baking the eggplant rounds since I wanted the breadcrumbs on the crispier side. The recipe includes a marinara sauce which I made but feel free to use another recipe (or jarred would work just as well).
Lightened Eggplant Parmesan
Taken from: Cook's Illustrated
For the sauce:
- Two 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil
- Salt and pepper
For the eggplant
- 2 eggplants (about 1 pound each), ends trimmed, sliced into 1/3-inch-thick rounds
- Vegetable oil spray
- 1 ½ cups panko (see note)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
- ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 8 ounces reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- For the sauce (can be made a day in advance): Pulse 1 can of the tomatoes, with their juice, in a food processor until mostly smooth, about 11 pulses. Transfer the tomatoes to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining 1 can tomatoes; set aside. Cook the garlic, tomato paste, oil, and pepper flakes (if using) in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the processed tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cook until thickened, 20 to 25 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside until needed.
- For the eggplant: Meanwhile, toss half of the eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt, then place in a large colander set over a bowl. Repeat with the remaining eggplant and 1/2 teaspoon more salt, and transfer to the colander with the first batch. Let the eggplant sit for 30 minutes to drain.
- Spread the eggplant over several layers of paper towels. Firmly press the tops of the eggplant dry with more paper towels.
- While the eggplant is drying, adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 475 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil and lightly coat with vegetable oil spray.
- Combine the panko and oil in a 12-inch skillet, and toast over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, about 10 minutes. Spread the panko in a shallow dish and let cool slightly, then stir in the Parmesan. In a second shallow dish, whisk the flour, garlic powder, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together. In a third shallow dish, whisk the egg and water together.
- Season the eggplant with pepper. Lightly dredge one side of each eggplant slice in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess. Dip the floured side of the eggplant into the egg, then coat the same side with the panko, pressing to help the crumbs adhere. Lay the eggplant slices, breaded-side up, on the baking sheets in a single layer.
- Lightly coat the top of the eggplant slices with vegetable oil spray. Bake until the tops are crisp and golden, about 30 minutes, switching and rotating the baking sheets halfway through.
- Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Position half of the eggplant slices, breaded-side up, on top of the sauce, overlapping the slices to fit. Distribute 1/2 cup more sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the mozzarella. Layer in the remaining eggplant, breaded-side up, and dot with 1 cup more sauce, leaving the majority of the eggplant exposed so it will remain crisp; sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella.
- Bake until bubbling and the cheese is browned, about 10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the basil and serve, passing the remaining sauce separately.