Just to think about the Italian recipe eggplant Parmesan, with its aromatic tomato sauce and layers of cheese and eggplant, makes one's mouth water. But it is the eggplant that makes this dish truly international, since it is originally from Africa. The origin of today's eggplants may vary. A variety with fewer seeds is grown in Asia, but these are more delicate and should be cooked right away. Another, smaller eggplant can be found in Thai marketplaces. Any of these eggplants is the right eggplant, since like "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," taste is up to the taster.
Things You'll Need
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
- 1 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
- 3 tbsp. capers, drained
- 2 28-oz. cans tomatoes with juice, crushed
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, hand torn
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups dried breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 tbsp. dried oregano
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 lbs. medium eggplants, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices
- 2 lbs. whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Romano
- 2 lbs. shredded mozzarella cheese
Over medium heat, add the olive oil and garlic to a large saucepan and cook for one minute. Add the olives, red pepper flakes, and capers and let that cook for two minutes, stirring often. Add the tomatoes and slowly simmer. Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper, simmering 10 minutes. Remove this mixture from the heat and set aside.
Use a shallow bowl and combine the breadcrumbs, garlic powder and oregano. Season this combination generously with salt and pepper; mix well. In another shallow bowl, crack three of the eggs; season with salt and pepper and beat with a fork to mix. In a separate bowl, add the flour and season it with salt and pepper.
Add about 1/4-inch of olive oil to a large skillet and heat to a medium temperature. Dredge several eggplant slices in the flour, dip them in the egg, add a coating of breadcrumbs and then add these to the skillet in a single layer. When the eggplant is cooked to tenderness and well browned on both sides, remove them from the skillet and drain the slices on paper towels. Finish cooking all of the eggplant slices. Add more olive oil to the pan if needed.
Add the ricotta and 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano cheese. Add the basil and remaining two eggs to the mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a large baking dish.
Spoon some of the tomato sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Add a layer of eggplant. Spread with half of the ricotta mixture and some more tomato sauce. Sprinkle with about one-third of the mozzarella. Repeat with a layer of eggplant, the rest of the ricotta, tomato sauce and another third of the mozzarella. Finish with the rest of the eggplant, the rest of the tomato sauce, and the rest of the mozzarella. Sprinkle with the 3/4 cup Parmigiano.
Bake for about one hour. The top should be golden and bubbling. Let the Parmesan dish stand for about 20 minutes before cutting. Makes eight servings.
Tips & Warnings
- Before cooking the eggplant, sprinkle the slices with salt to draw out extra moisture and bitter flavors.
- When shopping for your eggplant, lightly press the eggplant. If it is not resilient, it is too old.
- "Joy of Cooking"; Irma S. Rombauer; 1997