Summer

Eggplant Parmesan

by:
August 31, 2009
4 Stars
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

This is my Nonna's recipe, and most of the ingredients came from her beloved garden. She used to fry the eggplant in egg and flour, but I use only flour and cook the eggplant on baking sheets in a hot oven. I always thought the egg batter soaked up too much of the sauce. My version makes it lighter and creamier, plus you use a lot less oil. —Nancy Jo

Test Kitchen Notes

Eggplant Parm is all about balance: The texture of the eggplant should be neither soggy nor undercooked. The sauce should have a sweet tomato flavor that complements the slightly bitter eggplant. And there should be *lots* of cheese (we’re not going to justify this one—it’s just better this way, trust us). All the cooking here is centered around getting the eggplant and tomatoes to the right consistency so that when you fuse them, the sauce isn’t watery and the eggplant isn’t sad and soft. Nancy Jo accomplishes this by baking slabs of flour-dusted eggplant in the oven with just a trace of oil. Too much and the dish will become greasy, which will distract you from all of the other delicious flavors happening in the pan. If cooked properly, the eggplant should come out as stiff as cards. She recommends choosing large eggplants that feel firm to the touch and have a smooth skin. If possible, pick male eggplants, which have fewer seeds and a rounder, smoother bottom. The tomatoes—in this case, that’s two cans of high-quality San Marzano tomatoes—are cooked down in the pan until pulpy.

When the two meet in a baking dish (Nancy Jo likes to use ceramic or earthenware, but you can use stainless steel as well), the eggplant soaks up some tomato juices but retains its own character, so you get distinct layers. And she adds the mozzarella as a center layer, so you get the warm melted cheese right in the belly of the dish. Use fresh mozzarella, which is creamy and even a little sweet. After all, if you’re putting in the effort of making eggplant Parm from scratch, you may as well use the good stuff. There’s a full cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, which we recommend buying in block form and then grating yourself for the freshest possible flavor (feel free to throw it in the food processor to make quick work, rather than grating by hand on a Microplane). If you must buy pre-grated, purchase it from a cheesemonger or a grocery store with a trusty cheese department. Check the date on the package to see when it was grated, and choose the most recent one.

You don’t have to serve the eggplant Parm with pasta, but you should absolutely serve it with thick slices of crusty bread like focaccia or ciabatta to sop up all of the excess sauce.
—The Editors

  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 2 hours
  • Serves 6
Ingredients
  • Eggplant
  • 3 pounds eggplant
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/2 pound buffalo-milk mozzarella (if the balls are small, get two)
  • Sauce
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 28 ounces cans whole peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • Kosher Salt
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Peel the eggplant and slice it lengthwise into ¼-inch slices. Sprinkle each layer with salt and place into a colander, overlapping and salting as you go. After you fill the colander, place a plate on top and weigh it down with a heavy pan or a tea kettle filled with water. Let the eggplant sweat for at least 30 minutes.
  2. While the eggplant sweats, make the tomato sauce: Cover the bottom of a sauce pan with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the sliced garlic and let it cook until it sizzles (do not brown the garlic, as it will quickly become bitter). Add the tomatoes with their juices and a big pinch of salt. Coarsely crush the tomatoes using a potato masher or pair of scissors. Lower the heat and simmer until the tomatoes are reduced by almost half, stirring frequently.
  3. Heat the oven to 450°F. Cover the bottom of two sheet pans with olive oil.
  4. While the oven heats up, remove the eggplant from the colander and thoroughly pat dry each slice. Dredge the eggplant slices in flour, shaking off any excess. Place on the sheet pans and drizzle each slice with olive oil. Bake until browned on one side (about 15 minutes), then turn over and brown the other side. Repeat until you have cooked all the eggplant.
  5. Using a 7x11-inch baking dish spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom and layer the eggplant until it completely covers the bottom.
  6. Sprinkle the eggplant generously with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add another layer of sauce and then the eggplant. Continue to build the layers until you are about two layers from the top, then add a single layer of sliced mozzarella. Finish with a couple more layers of eggplant, sauce, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Finish the top with more Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  7. Lower the oven temperature to 400°F. Bake on the upper third rack for 20 minutes. Check in: If the dish looks especially liquid, remove it from the oven and discard a few spoonfuls. Bake for another 15 minutes or so. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jeanean
    Jeanean
  • Penny Murcia
    Penny Murcia
  • Anne Murphy
    Anne Murphy
  • Adam
    Adam
  • Esteban
    Esteban

170 Reviews

Jeanean March 13, 2022
I have made this recipe many times and finally decided that I owed the author a review. My entire family loves this recipe and you can really tell the difference between a breaded and sautéed recipe and this one. It’s so much better done in the oven with a dusting of flour. The sauce and the eggplant become one with each other. I make it for company and get rave reviews. So happy that I found the recipe as I will never need another. Thanks
 
Nancy J. March 14, 2022
I'm so happy you love this recipe as much as I do! My Nonna would be so pleased. Thank you!
 
ortolan September 23, 2021
This is an excellent recipe. It produces the purest, most archetypal eggplant parmesan I've encountered. My husband proclaimed it "the best." Like all eggplant parmesan recipes, it's not simple to make, but it pays dividends in taste, texture, and the perfect balance of earthiness and acidity. And who wouldn't want to replicate someone's Nonna's recipe that originally used treasures from the garden?
I added a bit of tomato paste, sugar, and balsamic vinegar glaze to the sauce to increase depth of flavor. Otherwise, this is perfection as written! Thank you!
 
dcohenla September 5, 2021
I cooked the eggplant on my built-in griddle - amazing - the best eggplant I've ever cooked. I did salt, rinse, dry and flour before cooking. I highly recommend this method for cooking eggplant. yum!
 
Penny M. July 5, 2021
Love, love, love this recipe! I added some red pepper and red wine to the sauce. I’ve made this at least half a dozen times and everyone Loves it!
 
SPark0101 January 2, 2021
Really delicious and excellent in its simplicity. I didn't salt either, and I added some ricotta to the layers because I had some in hand.
 
Ashley July 16, 2020
This is my go-to eggplant parm recipe and a pair of foodie friends say it's one of my best dishes. I know it so well by now, I don't even need the recipe. My only change is adding crumbled Italian sausage between the layers. I dusted the top with chopped basil afterward and it was so beautiful. A great way to use up summer eggplant, and if you have too much, I've learned that you can bake the eggplant, freeze it, and use it in the winter for a decadent and comforting taste of summer.
 
Anne M. July 13, 2020
Absolutely delicious. Used 4 eggplants fresh from the garden. I did not salt the eggplants prior to using - totally unnecessary anymore. I also seasoned them (salt/pepper/Peney's justice) before dipping in flour. Watch the time spent in oven - mine cook a lot faster. I also jazzed up the marinara sauce a bit w/ fire roasted tomatoes and added a handful of fresh basil, 2T of basaltic vinegar and 2t of Italian seasoning. Will definitely be making again. Limiting the mozzarella to the belly of the dish is brilliant.
 
Kimberly F. October 30, 2019
AMAZING!!!! I followed this recipe exactly and it was delicious! My guests were avid foodies and farmers and everyone asked for the recipe after. We all appreciate that eggplant can be tricky to get the texture just right! Thank you!
 
Adam June 24, 2019
I did not peel or salt the eggplants, but otherwise followed the recipe to the letter. This is one of the best eggplant parmigiana recipes ever! I had this dish in Puglia and they DO NOT bread the eggplant, so this is very authentic. Make this.
 
Megan June 23, 2019
What size baking dish did people use? Read the comments, saw the picture doesn’t correspond, but what was the verdict here? Would love to know!
 
Emily K. December 13, 2019
Personally I used 8X11 with extra sauce (I freaking love sauce) and it was great!!!
 
Mary May 17, 2019
Thank you for the recipe, sounds good and I can't wait to try it. I was intrigued by the "male / female eggplant" comment. I did a little googling and found that there is no such thing as "sexed" eggplants. Better to check for how ripe the eggplant is to determine seediness. https://depts.washington.edu/hortlib/resources/wp-resource_search.php?term=2697
 
Catwoman September 6, 2019
We were curious also and googled it and in fact found that they do. There images as well! They have different bottoms, and males are sweeter with less seeds😃
 
Esteban April 2, 2019
Thank you very much for this recipe. All the directions were clear enough to process the Aubergine wich I never prepared before.
Delicious dish
 
paul.taxicullen March 23, 2019
Stuck to the recipe. I didn't get it right the first time because I didn't get the aubergine dry enough and my tomato sauce was too runny.... not the second time: the second time it was absolutely fantastic. Aubergine nice and cooked out. Sauce reduced. Amazing dish with relatively few ingredients. Thank you.
 
Leesa R. January 30, 2019
Made a half batch without peeling or pre-salting. Easy, cheesy eggplant goodness.
 
Lewinski T. January 20, 2019
Fresh eggplant 🍆 is a beautiful thing, does not need peeling - lots of nutrients in the skin and does not need to sit in a salt bath if fresh.
Lovely recipe apart from this
 
erinrae October 14, 2018
Agree that this is great! It's time consuming but not overly messy or complicated, and it's great avoiding breading and frying. Next time I'll change the sauce, I think a crushed tomato sauce would work a lot better than whole tomato (even broken up). I might even try Marcella Hazan's tomato with onion sauce... I may also try ricotta per other commenters. Thank you for sharing!
 
bobbe August 18, 2018
Also, this a fun recipe to tinker with. I boosted the flavor of the tomato sauce, with a healthy pinch of red peppers, a splash of leftover black coffee, and a bit of sugar . . . old habits die hard. ha.
 
bobbe August 18, 2018
After I removed the thin eggplant slices and thoroughly patted each one dry, I went ahead and layered each slice between another layer of paper towel. After allowing time for additional sweating including placing a plate and pot on top of my mountain of eggplant, I felt satisfied that most of the saltiness that some are referring too was taken care of. Also the sauce does not call for extra salt. I tasted one of the slices of eggplant that was very brown and crispy and it was just salty enough to handle the slightly under salted sauce. Right now it is cooling and I'm very excited to see the happiness around the table tonight. Hope this was helpful.
 
babswool August 7, 2018
I love eggplant parm but hate the frying part - so much grease and mess. Cooking the eggplant in the oven was such a revelation. Loved!
 
Dave May 17, 2018
Recipe calls for 7x11 baking dish but photo is what looks like a shallow paella pan
. That is a huge difference in thickness.