Eggplant Parmesan is an classic Italian, family friendly dish that’s perfect for weekend dinners. Breaded thin slices of eggplant baked until crispy and then layered with delicious homemade pasta sauce and extra mozzarella cheese. So much flavor and comfort, food has never felt so good!
Eggplant Parmesan is one of those classic dishes that becomes a staple in your cooking repertoire. It certainly is in mine. I have several go-to dishes that I always turn to when I don’t feel like creating something new or don’t feel like fussing with dinner all night. Eggplant Parmesan, Pasta Alfredo, Italian Meatballs, and Chicken Parmesan are a couple of those go-to dishes.
It seems that we love Italian in my house, and we really do!
Eggplant and Chicken Parmesan dishes were actually some of the very first recipes that I made for my husband many years ago. We were still dating at the time and there we very few things that he actually ate. He was very resistant to trying eggplant but this dish turned it all around and he learned to love eggplant (and so many other vegetables).
I’ve had so many years to learn the best ways to make this dish and fix many mistakes that I used to make. Some of those mistakes included slicing the eggplant too thick and not layering it with extra sauce and cheese. I’ve also learned a few hacks to make it easier and ways to add more flavor. All those tips I am sharing here because everyone deserves to make the best Eggplant Parmesan.
STEPS TO MAKE IT:
Make pasta sauce:
This is an easy step but you can also prepare the sauce ahead of time. If you want to make it a day or two before making eggplant, prepare it according to the recipe and store in the refrigerator, in a glass container with a lid.
Preheat a cooking pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Add chopped onion, carrots, and garlic cloves. Saute vegetables for a few minutes and then add crushed (or diced) tomatoes, tomato sauce, seasoning, and herbs. Lower the heat to low, cover with a lid, and let it all cook while preparing the eggplant.
Slice eggplant into thin slices that are about to 1/3 inch thick. (It’s not a typo, I found that 1/2 inch thickness is just a little too thick.)
Prepare three wide bowls to bread the eggplant: one with flour mixture, one with egg mixture, and one with bread crumb mixture.
Dip each eggplant slice into flour mixture first to lightly coat it with flour and then, dip it into egg mixture, and finally into bread crumbs. Gently pat the bread crumb mixture onto the slice of eggplant and place it on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bread all eggplant slices and place them in one even layer on the baking sheet. You will need 2 large baking sheets and bake them at the same time.
Bake breaded eggplant slices at 425° for about 20 minutes.
Prepare Eggplant Parmesan:
To blend the sauce, you can use an immersion blender or transfer it into a standing blender. Pulse until the sauce is smooth.
Spread a third of the sauce all over the bottom of the 9×13 baking dish and layer half of the baked eggplant slices snugly, even overlapping a little. Spread another third of the sauce over the eggplants and generously sprinkle with shredded Mozzarella cheese.
Layer remaining eggplant slices and top them off with remaining sauce and cheese. Sprinkle some oregano and parsley flakes on top and bake at 350° for about 25 minutes.
TIPS FOR THE BEST EGGPLANT PARMESAN
Save some time and effort and bake eggplant instead of pan-frying it. When you cook it in the pan, you have to do it batches and it will take longer and a bit more tedious than laying them out on a baking sheet and baking for 20 minutes.
Infuse even more delicious flavors with the breading. Mix in some grated Parmesan cheese into the breading and use Italian bread crumbs. You will have extra cheesy flavor and the bread crumbs have herbs and spices already mixed in.
Homemade pasta sauce will make the world of difference. To save some time, make the sauce a day or two before you need it and store it in a glass jar with a lid, in the refrigerator.
Can I make it gluten free?
Yes! It’s really just a simple substitution of gluten free bread crumbs instead of Italian style bread crumbs.
Can I make it ahead of time?
Yes, if you don’t mind the breading being a little soggy. Whether you put the whole dish together up to the step of baking or just bake the eggplant ahead of time, just know that the breading will soften.
If you don’t mind it, feel free to put together the whole dish and then cover and refrigerate it. Pull the casserole dish out of the refrigerator and let it warm up on the counter while the oven is preheating. Bake it at 350° and add 5-10 extra minutes to bake time.
You can also prepare marinara sauce ahead of time and keep it for a day or two in the refrigerator. Make sure to store it in a glass jar with an air-tight lid.
Can I freeze Eggplant Parmesan?
Yes, you can! If you plan to freeze this dish, use aluminum baking pan to prepare it in and freeze it. You will be able to bake it right in the same aluminum pan as well.
Prepare the whole eggplant casserole in the aluminum baking pan up to the step of baking. Wrap the whole pan in aluminum foil tightly and then wrap in a couple of layers of plastic wrap. Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
You don’t have to thaw it before baking, just take off the plastic wrap and foil. Place a sheet of foil somewhat loosely over the baking pan and bake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes at 350°. Take off the foil and bake another 15 minutes.
Do I have to sweat the eggplant first?
This is actually a source of some debate. Many people swear by this step. Sweating eggplant before baking takes away some of the natural bitterness and excess moisture. If you have the time and patience, salt eggplant slices on both sides and lay them out on a couple of wire cooling racks. After about an hour, pat all the sliced dry with a paper towel.
I’ve made the eggplant both ways and to be completely honest, I don’t notice enough difference in flavor to be worth it. Since eggplant is breaded and baked with sauce and cheese, bitterness is not noticeable. It’s a worth step on un-breaded eggplant though!
As far as excess moisture, I fall into category of people who don’t mind the softer breading on the eggplant. Mainly because the breading will get soft no matter what you do. The eggplant is baked with sauce and cheese all around it, there is no avoiding it.
So make this decision yourself and try it both way to decide your personal taste preference!
MORE CLASSIC ITALIAN RECIPES
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- 2 medium eggplants
- 2 cups Italian bread crumbs
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 Vidalia onion
- 2 medium carrot
- 5-6 garlic cloves
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (or diced)
- 8 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp fresh minced basil
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp white granulated sugar
- 3 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tbsp dried parsley
- fresh basil optional
Start with the sauce:
- Preheat a cooking pot over medium heat and add olive oil.
- Add chopped onion, carrots, and garlic cloves. Saute vegetables for a few minutes and then add crushed (or diced) tomatoes, tomato sauce, seasoning, and herbs.
- Lower the heat to low, cover with a lid, and let it all cook while preparing and baking the eggplant.
Prepare the eggplant:
- Preheat oven to 425° and line two large baking sheets with aluminum foil. Spray some oil spray over each covered baking sheet to grease it.
- Slice eggplant into thin slices that are about to 1/3 inch thick. (It’s not a typo, I found that 1/2 inch thickness is just a little too thick.)
- Prepare three wide bowls to bread the eggplant. Whisk flour with some salt and pepper in one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together eggs with some salt, and pepper. In the last bowl, whisk together Italian bread crumbs, grated Parmesan cheese, with some salt, and pepper. Don't use too much salt and pepper, just enough to enhance flavor.
- Dip each eggplant slice into flour mixture first to lightly coat it with flour and then, dip it into egg mixture, and finally into bread crumbs. Gently pat the bread crumb mixture onto the slice of eggplant and place it on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bread all eggplant slices and place them in one even layer on the baking sheet.
- Bake breaded eggplant slices at 425° for about 20 minutes.
Prepare Eggplant Parmesan:
- Set the oven heat to 350°.
- To blend the sauce, you can use an immersion blender or transfer it into a standing blender. Pulse until the sauce is smooth.
- Spread a third of the sauce all over the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish and layer half of the baked eggplant slices snugly, even overlapping a little. Spread another third of the sauce over the eggplants and generously sprinkle with shredded Mozzarella cheese.
- Layer remaining eggplant slices and top them off with remaining sauce and cheese. Sprinkle some oregano and parsley flakes on top and bake at 350° for about 25 minutes.
Originally published on Will Cook For Smiles on July 21, 2016. Updated August 17, 2020.
B Donnelly says
Your original recipe included a topping that I think you called eggplant hash. This is no longer listed on the recipe. Can you provide it to me? My family really liked it. Thanks.
Megan Scott says
This is surprising easy to prepare, and also delicious!. I followed the recipe exactly and wouldn’t change a thing. Served with spaghetti and steamed kale. I made two 8×8 inch pans; one went into the freezer.
Thank you, Megan! I am so glad you liked it!
I like it very much I will try it at home.
Made these tonight…They came out delicioussss. Thanks for the recipe!!
Awesome! I am so glad you liked them!
Pure perfection! We all loved this dish!
Thanks, Carla! 🙂
Love the parmesan cheese <3
Thank you, Beatrice!