I know that if I ask the husband what he wants for dinner, he is likely to say “vegetables in curry” or “eggplant parm.” (Either answer, of course, is better than “I don’t care,” which I find annoying and unhelpful, even if his intention is to convey that he’s flexible, or something.)
Although I’ve been cooking since I was a child, I had never prepared eggplant parmigiana before our marriage. When I did finally try to make it for dinner, I was put off by the amount of cheese, bread crumbs, frying oil and active time necessary to prepare it. Over the years I tried to reduce each of these things, but always felt it could have been taken further if the dish were reconstructed.
Fortunately, professional chefs have recently taken to making the dish healthier as well, and my adaptation of a Mario Batali recipe has made the hubby (and me) very happy. We can enjoy the flavor and texture of roasted eggplant and basil leaves, while the bread crumbs have been turned into just a crunchy topping. Although the cheese has been substantially reduced, enough remains to be satisfying. If your tomato sauce is already prepared, this dish is quick enough for a weeknight.
This Week’s Recipe: A Lighter Eggplant Parmigiana
- 3 large eggplant, about 3 pounds, peeled (Japanese eggplant can be used unpeeled)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 3-4 cups tomato sauce, homemade or jar (Progresso, Newman’s or Muir Glen are good)
- 1 handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
- ¾ pound fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/8-inch thick
- ¾ cup grated or shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
- ¾ cup bread crumbs (I use Panko)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or oil them. Slice each eggplant into 6-8 pieces 1 to 1 ½ inches thick. Rub olive oil on each side of every slice of eggplant, lightly season with salt and pepper, and place on the sheets. Bake at 450 degrees until the slices look toasty on top, about 20 minutes, and remove them from the oven.
Lower oven temperature to 375 degrees. In a rectangular baking dish place the largest eggplant slices on the bottom. Place a slice of mozzarella on each round of eggplant, then a sprinkle of fresh basil, and spoon tomato sauce over that. Place the smaller slices of eggplant over each of the bottom pieces. Spoon a generous amount of tomato sauce on each slice, then sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and the bread crumbs on top.
Bake uncovered until the tomato sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Serve with a green vegetable or green salad. Serves 4-6.
Felicia is a local home cook; she can be reached at email@example.com.