NoFry Eggplant Parm
A healthier take on an old standard
This eggplant parmesan is a variation of the traditional dish but with less oil, less breading and less mess — what could be bad?!
Traditional preparation of this can be challenging — frying eggplant tends to saturate it with the cooking oil, which is then released when you bake the casserole. This can result in a thin, oily sauce. Roasting avoids that issue (and a significant amount of calories too!) plus it tastes great.
This recipe is an adaptation of Marian Burros’ take on Jamie Oliver’s recipe. We have further adapted it and it makes an appearance on our menu at least twice a month. Instead of making tomato sauce, we use one of the many excellent commercial offerings with no added sugars and a simple ingredient list. Our current favorite is Wegman’s Italian Classics Grandma’s Pomodoro Sauce. We decided to add some shredded mozzarella to the grated parmesan to make it extra tasty and because, when we first had it, the wife kvetched: “Hey, where’s the mozzarella?!”
Serves: 2, with leftovers.
Total Time: About 90 minutes
Leftover Potential: Excellent!
Wife’s Rating: Love this one!
1 1/2 lbs eggplant
1/4 cup olive oil
1 qt tomato sauce
1/3 cup grated parmesan (romano)
1/3 cup shredded mozzarella
1/3 cup bread crumbs (or panko)
3 Tbsp fresh oregano (optional)
Large sheet pan, plus a 2nd if you need it to accommodate all the eggplant
8” x 8” casserole dish - ours is 2 1/2” deep, which is just about right for this dish
Chef’s knife (for slicing eggplant)
Small mixing bowl
Preheat to 450 degrees, using your convection feature if you have one. We find this helps the air flow and cooks the eggplant more evenly. If might even cut back on the cooking time.
Pan Placement: If you’re using one sheet pan, place it on the center rack. If multiple pans are needed and they don’t fit side by side on one rack, place the 2nd oven rack one notch above or below (whichever works best in your oven). When you cook the eggplant, try to offset the pans to minimize the overlap, again to aid in even cooking.
Slicing and Dicing
Nothing needs be done in advance.
Start the Oven
Set to bake (or convection) at 450 degrees, if you haven’t already done so.
Prep the eggplant
Trim the ends of the eggplant (about 1/2” or so).
Slice the eggplant into 1/2” rounds. Consistency of thickness is more important than accuracy of size, though you don’t want them too thick.
Drop a splash of oil on the sheet pan(s) and spread to a thin layer with a paper towel.
Lay the eggplant slices out on the sheet pan(s) in a single layer and brush the tops of the slices with olive oil.
Salt and pepper to taste.
When the oven is heated, slide the eggplant-filled sheet pan(s) onto the racks to roast.
Set a timer for 10 minutes.
Make Breadcrumb Topping
Clean, harvest and finely chop about 3 Tbsp of fresh oregano leaves.
Add 1/3 cup of breadcrumbs to the mixing bowl.
Stir 1 Tbsp of olive oil into the bread crumbs with the spoon, mashing clumps as they arise, until the mixture is moistened. Add a splash more oil if needed to moisten the bread crumbs evenly.
Add the chopped oregano to the mixing bowl and stir to distribute it evenly.
Set the bowl aside.
Flip the Eggplant
After 10 minutes, check the undersides of the eggplant slices. You don’t want them to char! If they’re not done, slide the pan back in the oven.
Check in on the progress in a couple minutes.
When the bottoms are browned, flip the slices of eggplant and slip it back in for another 10 minutes. If you’re as distractible as we are, set a timer again!
Note: We turn the pan(s) 180 degrees at this point to aid in even cooking.
When the timer goes off, check for doneness. If the second side is not browned, let it cook a few minutes more. Remember: Beware the eggplant char!
When the eggplant is done, set the sheet pan(s) on the stovetop.
Reduce the Oven Temp to 375 Degrees
This is for baking the casserole. If our timing is right, the oven should be cooled to the proper temperature by the time the casserole is assembled.
Assemble Your Casserole
1) Spread a thin layer of sauce in the casserole dish, just to cover the bottom. Add a thin layer of grated cheese, then a single layer of eggplant slices. A little overlap is fine if you want to really pack it in.
2) Do the following twice
Repeat the sauce layer, going fairly light on the sauce. You can use the back of a spoon to spread the sauce evenly over the eggplant.
Add a layer of grated parmesan then shredded mozzarella cheese then another layer of eggplant.
3) Add sauce, grated cheese (no mozzarella!) and eggplant.
4) Top with a bit more sauce, grated cheese, and then the breadcrumb mixture. Spread the breadcrumbs around with the back of the spoon.
Bake the Casserole
Put the casserole (uncovered) into the oven and cook for 40-45 minutes. You’ll see the topping start to brown and the sauce bubble when it’s ready.
Let it Rest
When it’s done to your satisfaction, pull the casserole out of the oven (oven mitts!) and place on top of the stove for 5 - 7 minutes.
Check out our delicious and easy take on garlic bread, which goes great with this dish.
Cut the casserole into quarters.
Mangia and buon appetito!