You know how everyone’s strictly in summer-mode and has turned their ovens into temporary storage? That is so great.
I just haven’t managed that well. I got this craving, and…anyway, eggplant parmesan (hey, it’s healthy baked eggplant parmesan, but still). I don’t turn down for anything.
So here we go: All the makings of the best baked lighter eggplant parm. I’m taking you through it step by step, with all the ways I choose to cut calories, because I’ve tried it many ways over the years and this is the method that has worked best. No spongey texture, no bitterness in the eggplant, and none of that, “Yeah, it’s good…for baked.” It’s just plain good, I promise.
Years ago, I made baked eggplant parm and didn’t salt my eggplant first. It was bitter; it was spongey; it was…yes did I say sponge already? Disaster. Then I talked to my grandmother, who makes an Italian feast on Christmas Eve, and her tip? Salt your eggplant before cooking it.
Salting helps to draw out the liquid in the raw eggplant (much of which carries bitter flavors) and collapses the air pockets in the eggplant’s sponge-like flesh, which prevents it from absorbing too much oil–a great tip if you’re sauteeing the eggplant. (source: Fine Cooking)
Breaded eggplant is essential to eggplant parm. One time I ordered an eggplant parm sub in Seattle and when I unwrapped the white parchment, I was flat-out ready to flip a table when I found grilled eggplant. No breading, just naked, lonely eggplant with sauce and cheese. I have nothing against grilled eggplant–as a side dish. I even love the taste of plain eggplant in eggplant rollatini. But not in my eggplant parm.
I ate a few bites, really tried to find the good in it, but alas, I just couldn’t. I gave up.
Eggplant parm is too nostalgic for me. Whether it’s in a sandwich, a casserole, or simply stacked with sauce and cheese, it has to have some crispiness.
How many bread crumbs is negotiable. I don’t need a lot. I don’t even need it to be fried, which you might expect, given how absolutely out-of-my-mind I’m coming across. I just need a little tradition in place. So the key:
Only bread ONE side of the eggplant: the top. I picked up this tip from my friends at Cooks Illustrated, and thought it was genius. It’s perfect when you want some crispy, bready heft, but don’t need a lot of it to feel satisfied. Breading only the top of the eggplant means I use about half the amount of bread crumbs that I’d typically use, saving us half the calories.
- 1 large eggplant (about 1 ½ pounds), sliced into ½-inch thick rounds (12 to 14 slices)
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup plain panko bread crumbs
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- cooking oil spray
- 2 cups homemade tomato sauce (or Rao’s brand)
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly into as many slices as your eggplant
- 1 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
- Line 2 baking sheets with a double layer of paper towels and spread the eggplant slices among the sheets evenly.
- Liberally salt the eggplant slices, using about a teaspoon total of salt, and let them sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Using fresh paper towels, wipe the tops of the eggplant to remove excess salt and firmly press to release any remaining liquid.
- Dry on both sides and transfer to a plate.
- Wipe the baking sheets and line them with parchment paper or aluminum foil and spray well with cooking oil.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- In a medium bowl, beat the eggs.
- In another medium shallow bowl, combine the panko, oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
- Dip one slice of eggplant into the egg, coating both sides, and then press ONE side into the bread crumbs.
- Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
- Repeat the process with all remaining slices.
Spray the tops of the eggplant slices well with cooking oil and bake until the eggplant is soft and the crust is crispy, about 15 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and spoon a heaping tablespoon of sauce on each, followed by a slice of mozzarella. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes.
You can find complete recipes of this Healthy Baked Eggplant Parmesan in andiemitchell.com