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Jessica's Easy Baked Eggplant Parmesan

By Jessica Sanders

You've probably already caught on to the fact that I love a good casserole. I'll spend upwards of 2 hours in the kitchen on Monday if it means I don't have to cook again until Thursday - as much as I love to cook and bake, sometimes life gets busy and "leftovers" is the magic word. But what I really love are healthier versions of my favorite comfort food casseroles - lasagna, macaroni & cheese, and in this case, eggplant parmesan. Because there's no frying here. That's where this delicious recipe for baked eggplant parmesan comes from - my desire to indulge in yummy Italian food with less guilt. I've kind of thrown together a bunch of different recipes and come up with my own, so this recipe is the result of trying many, many recipes and swirling the best aspects of all of them into one awesome dish. I swear you won't miss the grease - I pinky swear that I actually prefer this healthier baked eggplant parmesan to the traditional fried version. 

A few things that make my recipe special (in my humble opinion) are swapping out the shredded mozzarella for fresh water-packed ovoline mozzarella and lowering the sodium with a no-salt-added tomato sauce. This recipe serves 6-8 people - I love leftovers, and one batch of this is dinner for my husband and myself for four nights. This really is a quick and easy recipe - and reheated leftovers are fantastic. You'll also notice that I'm kind of loose on the ingredients - I make this a wee bit differently every time, depending on what I have on hand. 

Jessica's Easy Baked Eggplant Parmesan

serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 1-lb eggplants, sliced crosswise into 1/4 inch slices 
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork (you can also use egg whites or egg substitute here, if you prefer)
  • 2 cups bread crumbs - I use a mixture of panko and regular breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp dried oregano, separated
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder (NOT "garlic salt")
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil cooking spray (canola or vegetable sprays are fine, too)
  • 2 1/2 cups of no-salt-added or low sodium (or homemade) tomato sauce 
  • 4 cubes Dorot frozen chopped basil (I buy this in the freezer section at Trader Joe's - you can also use about 1/4 cup packed fresh basil here, just chop it finely, or even a teaspoon or so of dried basil)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (start with 1/4 tsp and taste - add more if you like it spicy, like I do)
  • 1 cup fresh water-packed whole milk ovoline mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick 
  • 3/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese, divided

Instructions:

  1. Get a broiler pan ready - line it with foil, and spray lightly with cooking spray. Preheat your broiler if necessary.
  2. In a shallow bowl, combine bread crumbs with 1 tsp oregano, garlic powder, and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Pour eggs into another shallow bowl. Coat eggplant slices first in eggs, then dredge in breadcrumbs, lightly pressing the crumbs so they adhere to the  eggplant. Transfer each slice to the broiler pan as you coat it - you won't be able to fit all of your eggplant onto the broiler pan in one go, so once you've filled up the broiler pan just lay your breaded eggplant slices on a tray or cutting board to await their turn in the broiler. Lightly spray the tops of the eggplant slices with cooking spray or mist with olive oil.
  3. Broil eggplant on each side for about 3 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Repeat with the rest of the eggplant.
  4. In a large bowl, combine tomato sauce with basil, remaining 1 tsp oregano and red pepper flakes. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.
  5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly coat a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Coat the bottom of the dish with 1 cup tomato sauce, then arrange eggplant slices (layering if necessary) over sauce. Top with 1/2 of mozzarella cheese. Repeat with another 1 cup of sauce and the rest of the eggplant, then top with the remaining 1/2 cup sauce, the rest of the mozzarella cheese, and the remaining 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan (so the layers go sauce, eggplant, mozzarella, sauce, eggplant, sauce, mozzarella, parmesan). 
  6. Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden. 
All you need for a complete meal is a side salad or some steamed veggies - one of my favorites to serve with this dish is steamed broccolini with a squeeze of lemon juice and a teaspoon of melted butter, topped with a sprinkle of salt and some freshly ground black pepper.