This is a long-time favorite recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. What I love about this recipe is that there is no standing over the stove frying the eggplant in seemingly never-ending batches. This step is eliminated by baking the breaded eggplant slices on preheated baking sheets. The eggplant emerge from this step crispy and golden and are irresistible. Sometimes I stop here, pile the rounds on a platter and pass the Marcella Hazan tomato sauce on the side along with some slices of fresh mozzarella. But completing the assembly process is rewarding, too, namely that the finished eggplant parmesan feeds a crowd and is completely comforting in the way that so many bubbling, cheesy, layered casseroles are. Like all eggplant parmesan recipes, this one is a labor of love -- salting the eggplant, drying and breading it take time. And if you make homemade sauce and breadcrumbs, well, set aside a good chunk of time before you plan on serving this. That said, sauce and breadcrumbs can be made days in advance. Cheese can be grated ahead of time, too. —Alexandra Stafford
8 to 10
globe eggplants, about 2 pounds total, sliced into 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick rounds
dried breadcrumbs, preferably homemade, or panko works well too
In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 1 teaspoon plus another large pinch of salt. Transfer to two colanders set in the sink and let the eggplant drain for about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions, place a rimmed baking sheet on each rack, and heat oven to 425° F. Combine the flour and about 1 teaspoon pepper in a large ziplock bag and shake to combine. Beat the eggs in a shallow dish. Combine the breadcrumbs, 1 cup of the Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a second shallow dish. (Alternatively, you can season the eggplant rounds once they are breaded with salt and pepper to taste.)
Spread the drained eggplant over paper towels. Press firmly on each slice to remove as much liquid as possible. Working with about 8 eggplant slices at a time, place them in the bag with the flour, seal, and shake until thoroughly coated. Remove the eggplant, shaking off any excess flour, and dip it into the eggs. Remove the eggplant from the eggs, allowing any excess egg to drip off, and coat evenly with the breadcrumbs, pressing them to adhere. Lay the breaded eggplant on a wire rack. Flour, dip in egg, and coat the remaining eggplant in breadcrumbs in the same manner.
Remove the preheated baking sheets from the oven. Pour 3 tablespoons oil onto each sheet, tilting to coat the sheets evenly. Spread the breaded eggplant in a single layer over the hot sheets. Bake until the eggplant is well browned and crisp on the first side, about 15 to 20 minutes. Flip the eggplant slices over. Switch and rotate the baking sheets, and bake until the second side is brown, about another 10 minutes. Do not turn off the oven.
Spread 1 cup tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Shingle half of the eggplant slices over the tomato sauce. Distribute 1 more cup of the sauce over the eggplant and sprinkle with half of the mozzarella. Shingle the remaining eggplant in the dish and dot with another cup of the sauce, leaving the majority of the eggplant exposed so that it will remain crisp. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and the remaining cup of mozzarella.
Place the dish on the lower-middle rack of the oven. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and well browned, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the basil (if using) over the top and cool for 10 minutes before serving. Pass the remaining cup of sauce and 1/4 cup Parmesan on the side.