I'm usually a purist. When I'm going to cook a classic -- one might say iconic -- dish, I want to know how it's always been done and I want to do it exactly that way. Well, this is one big exception. I started making this modified, easier, faux-healthier version of eggplant parmigiana ages ago, and I must admit that I have never gone back to making it the traditional way.
There's more than one reason for this. The first being that I love eggplant parm, but I'm rarely motivated enough to make a classic one from scratch when I can just get some fairly good takeout at half a dozen places within half a dozen blocks. The breading, the frying, the oil, the stacking, etc. A big mess, and a good bit of time. This version eliminates the step of frying the eggplant slices in favor of baking them in the oven. You could also tell yourself that this makes the dish much healthier, but I try not to think that way when I'm piling on tons and tons of cheese. Regardless of the question of health, I realized after making this a zillion times that I actually prefer it this way, because it is much less greasy.
Of course, in a perfect world, you'd have a vat of homemade, slow-cooked marinara in the freezer at all times. I do try to remember when I do make marinara that you should always make 10 times more than you need and freeze batches for quick recipes. But let's be honest, the freezer is packed full enough already, so your favorite jarred marinara will do fine as well. The same homemade vs. storebought question goes for the breadcrumbs, which are best made fresh, but on a weekday night, I'll break out the Italian style in the canister. And yes, I eat this over rice. Short grain, sticky, Asian rice. Keepin' it real.
Recipe after the jump:
NO-FRY EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA
2 medium eggplants (I think about 5 lbs total?)
3 cups (or 1 24 oz jar) marinara sauce
4 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup shredded parmesan
1/3 cup shredded romano cheese
1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds and place in a single layer on a sheetpan sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Spray the surface of the slices with cooking spray. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
Lower the oven to 375. In an 8x8 casserole dish, spread a layer of marinara sauce and sprinkle with an even coat of breadcrumbs, parmesan, and romano cheese. Lay the baked eggplant slices on the sauce layer. Top with another layer of sauce, breadcrumbs, parmesan, and romano. Top the layer with half of the shredded mozzarella. Repeat the layer of egglplant, sauce, breadcrumbs, parmesan, and romano, but do not put the final layer of mozzarella. Bake in the lowered oven for 30 minutes. Add the final layer of mozzarella and return to the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown. Serve with crusty bread, pasta, or over rice.
PS. This dish is even better the second day.