I don’t know how I’ve gone so long in my life without watching The Sopranos. All that time I’ve been wasting on Greek (an embarrassing guilty pleasure) when Paulie and Tony and Christopher were running amuck in New Jersey. While, yeah, some scenes in the show are pretty graphic, have you seen the food?! Those sociopaths eat like kings.
From Artie Bucco’s Vesuvio to the ziti on the Soprano dinner table, Italian fare is a constant backdrop in the series. While pasta is usually my go-to in terms of Italian food, the minute I heard Tony grunt, “Where’s the eggplant?” there was no turning back. I yanked the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook off the bookshelf and pawed to a recipe for Eggplant Parm in the “Bringing Home the Italian Favorites” section .
This recipe is time consuming, taking up about 2 hours from start to finish, but easy enough. I wouldn’t go as far to call anything with layers of cheese healthy, but the eggplant is baked, not fried, so put your mind at ease and eat up.
Adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook
Serves 6-8 dainty “I’m not really that hungry” portions, or around 4 “I like to eat” portions. Be sure to have a 9×13 inch baking dish on hand.
Note: The tomato sauce in this recipe is amazing. It’s spicy and garlicky, and I’m planning on using it as my go-to pasta sauce from now on.
Another Note: America’s Test Kitchen says to only put sparse amounts of tomato sauce on the top layer of the Eggplant Parm for it to come out crispy. I originally missed this and added all of the remaining sauce, but it still came out delicious. Not super crispy, but in no way soggy or mushy.
- 2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/4 inch cross-wise rounds
- 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
- 2 cups dried breadcrumbs
- 1 cup flour
- 4 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Black Pepper and Table Salt
- 3 cans diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces each)
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cheeses and Garnish
- 8 ounces shredded mozzarella (around 2 cups)
- 6 ounces Parmesan Cheese (1.5 cups)
- Fresh basil leaves, for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Make sure oven racks on the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Place a rimmed backing sheet on each rack.
Prepare the Eggplant: Toss half of the eggplant slices with 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt in a large bowl. Once combined, place salted eggplant slices in a colander over a bowl. Repeat the process with the second half of the eggplant by tossing it with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and laying it on top of the first batch in the colander. Let the eggplant stand for about 35 minutes, allowing the eggplant to release about 2 tablespoons of liquid. Then spread the eggplant slices on triple thickness of paper towels, cover with another layer of paper towels, and press firmly on each slice to remove as much liquid as possible.
Prepare the Eggplant Batter: Combine bread crumbs with one cup of Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon of table salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. In a large Ziploc bag (I used a gallon size), combine flour and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Beat eggs in a separate bowl or cake pan.
Place 8-10 slices of the eggplant in the bag with the flour. Close the bag and shake to coat each slice. Take out the slices, dip them in the eggs, and shake to get rid of any excess. Then coat the slices with the breadcrumb mixture. Continue with all remaining eggplant.
Take out the preheated baking sheets from the oven, greasing each with 3 tablespoons of oil (make sure to coat the entire surface). Arrange half the eggplant slices on each sheet in a single layer. Bake until the eggplant slices are crisp and well-browned, approximately 30 minutes. After 10 minutes, switch and rotate the baking sheets, and after 20 minutes, flip the eggplant slices for even cooking. Remember not to turn off the oven–you’re going to bake the dish at the same 425 degrees in a little bit.
Prepare the Sauce: As the eggplant slices are baking, blend two cans of the diced tomatoes in the blender until smooth. In a large pot, saute the garlic, shallot, and red pepper flakes until the garlic and shallot are golden, roughly 3 minutes. Add the blended tomatoes and the third can of diced tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Be sure to stir occasionally, adding the chopped fresh basil and salt and pepper to taste.
Assemble the Dish: Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the 9×13 inch baking dish. Layer in half of the eggplant slices (the amount on one of the baking sheets). Spread another cup of the tomato sauce over the eggplant and cover with half of the mozzarella. Layer in the rest of the eggplant and cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup of Parmesan and the rest of the mozzarella. Bake until the cheese is browned and the sauce is bubbling, about 13-15 minutes. Allow the Eggplant Parmesan to cool for 10 minutes and serve, garnishing with fresh basil.