Every once in a while a recipe comes along that you really can’t mess up. This is one of those recipes. Unless you fall asleep while the oven is on or accidentally confuse your breadcrumbs with your sand collection, this one is kind of a home run.
There, have I jinxed you enough? Let’s proceed.
This recipe single handedly made me like eggplant again. Eggplant, that mushy, oil-absorptive non-entity. For years it was one of the two or three foods I just didn’t get. Then Jesse started making it, and I realized that I will like anything if it is smothered in enough Rao’s marinara sauce.
Jesse dictated this entire recipe to me the other night, and he was so nonchalant about it that I started to get suspicious.
“How long do I put the eggplant in the oven?”
“Oh, I don’t know, twenty minutes.”
“And how long do I bake the whole thing?”
“Mmm, maybe twenty minutes.”
“I feel like you are just saying twenty minutes for everything.”
This recipe, in addition to being fool-proof, also bypasses the labor-intensiveness of most eggplant parm by baking the eggplant instead of frying it. So you don’t have the guilt of frying, you don’t have the mess of frying, and you don’t have the time commitment of frying. Purists may say that you also don’t have the full deliciousness of frying — but to me it comes darn close.
Easiest Baked Eggplant Parm (recipe dictated by Jesse)
The Rao’s marinara sauce really makes this recipe for me. It’s a bit pricey but it will make anything you cook taste good. Plus, you can justify the price because this recipe will make you lunch for a week. If you can find it in your market, give it a try. If not, choose another sugar-free marinara sauce with ingredients that you can pronounce.
- 2 medium eggplants
- 3-4 eggs (start with 3, add an additional one if necessary)
- 2 cups of breadcrumbs (about 8 oz) – I used a combination of Trader Joe’s and some homemade.
- oregano, rosemary, and/or thyme (optional)
- 1 24 oz jar of Rao’s marinara sauce or other high-quality tomato sauce
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (about 8 oz)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan, or more to taste.
1. Preheat your oven to “about 375ish”
2. Slice eggplants into 1/8 inch discs, or as close to that as you can get.
3. Mix three eggs in a shallow bowl, add some salt and pepper.
4. Put your breadcrumbs in another shallow bowl. Mix in a handful of grated parmesan. You can also flavor the breadcrumbs with some herbs (oregano, thyme, and rosemary work nicely) but I wasn’t convinced that this made that much of a difference to the final product.
5. Set up a work station with your eggplant slices, two baking sheets lined with parchment paper or tinfoil, and the bowls of eggs and breadcrumbs. Your hands are about to become totally caked in breadcrumbs so it helps to have everything mise en place.
6. Dunk your eggplant slice in the egg, let excess drip off, and then dunk into breadcrumbs, coating the slice on both sides. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the slices. If you run out of egg or breadcrumbs, just add more.
7. Bake the eggplant slices for — you guessed it — about twenty minutes until they are golden brown and the outside is crunchy.
8. Using a lasagna pan or baking dish (mine is 9 x 12), start composing. Begin with a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan. Then place eggplant slices in a single layer.
9. Add a dollop of sauce to each slice. Then cover with about one-third of the shredded mozzarella and parm, leaving enough cheese for two additional layers.
10. Repeat, placing the next layer of eggplant over the empty spaces.
11. Keep going until you are out of ingredients. Don’t worry about getting it too perfect — it will all meld together in the oven. Just make sure your top layer is cheese and that you don’t have any empty, sad areas.
12. Bake at 375 for, oh, I don’t know, about 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted and just starting to brown.
Obviously this recipe is pretty fast and loose. If you have other ways you swear by making quick eggplant parm, let me know!