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Tender breaded eggplant, layered with sauce and cheese and baked until bubbly…hello Sunday dinner.
The holidays are still in full swing for me. We just returned from a trip upstate where we shared a little post-Christmas cheer with my family. The boys got a nice dose of snow and we got big helpings of hearty Italian food and family.
Holidays can be a challenge when you have young children and no family close by, especially on Christmas. You have this pull of wanting to be with your extended family, but still want to wake up in your own home on Christmas morning. We decided when the boys were babies that we would spend Christmas at our home. We wanted to see their faces when they caught their first glimpse of the presents under the tree, Santa’s half-eaten cookies and Rudolph’s chomped up carrots and celery.
Because we opt for Christmas morning at home, my parents often travel to us for Christmas day. But we decided to mix it up this year and go to them the week prior. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans. A slick coat of snow and ice meant that we’d be seeing them post-Christmas instead of pre.
It all worked out in the end; we enjoyed a no-stress visit and some hometown favorite foods. We walked in the door to a sheet pizza and a tray of my mom’s cookies. Then off to dinner that night where we were joined by my brother and his family. Big portions of Italian favorites, lots of laughs and a nice Chianti rounded out the evening. Of course Steve got the eggplant parmesan and of course I swiped a couple of forkfuls off of his plate. It’s long been a favorite of both of ours and there is nothing more satisfying on a cold winter day than perfectly cooked plate of eggplant.
But I’m not going to lie, it takes some time to do it right. I like to drain the eggplant for an hour or two before dredging and I’m a firm believer in a light coating of breading, not just flour before frying. I know, I know…it’s kind of a pain in the ass, but it’s a little like childbirth (okay, not really). The process is lengthy, a little messy and midway through I always wonder what I got myself into. But after that first bite of tender, saucy, cheesy eggplant I’m all set to make it again the following week.
I guess the key is to plan ahead and maybe make a day of it in the kitchen. Sundays are of course all about sauce and meatballs in our house when the weather is cold, so why not roll up our sleeves and bread some eggplant? It’s fun to turn on little Frank, pour a short glass of red and embrace my roots. I may not live geographically close, but when all those familiar smells begin to waft through the house, I may as well be next door.
- 2 large eggplant about 2 1/2 lbs
- kosher salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 10 oz bread crumbs
- Extra virgin olive oil for frying
- 5 cups tomato sauce
- 12 oz mozzarella shredded (about 3 cups)
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese grated
- 2 Tbsp basil thinly sliced
Peel the eggplant and trim the ends. Slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices.
Lay the eggplant slices in a single layer between paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Stack the layers and place a weighted baking sheet on top (I stack a few cookbooks on top of a baking sheet).
Allow the eggplant to sit for 1-2 hours to drain. This allows the bitter juices to drain and makes for less greasy eggplant.
After the eggplant has drained, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Lightly beat the eggs in a medium bowl with a couple tablespoons of water. Place the flour in a shallow dish and fill another shallow bowl with the breadcrumbs (you can add more breadcrumbs to the bowl as you go).
Dredge an eggplant slice in the flour, lightly shaking off the excess. Dip the floured slice into the egg, then the breadcrumbs.
Lay the breaded slice on a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining slices.
Pour enough oil to cover the bottom of a large nonstick skillet and heat over med/high heat until hot but not smoking. Lay enough breaded eggplant slices in the bottom to fit, but not crowd the pan.
Fry the eggplant until golden brown, then flip and repeat, about 3 mins each side.
Place the fried eggplant on paper towel-lined baking sheets to drain and season lightly with salt. Repeat with the remaining eggplant adding more oil as needed.
After all the eggplant is cooked, grease a 9x13 inch baking dish and spread 1/4 of the sauce on the bottom of the dish.
Place the eggplant slices in an even layer on the bottom of the baking dish, slightly overlapping them. Spread a 1/4 of the sauce and one third of the mozzarella and parmesan over the eggplant.
Repeat with two more layers, finishing with the cheese. Sprinkle with shredded basil.
Cover the baking dish with non-stick foil and bake for 40-45 mins until hot and bubbling.
Remove the foil and pop under the broiler to lightly brown the top.
Cover and let the eggplant sit for 5-10 mins before cutting and serving.