When it comes to Italian comfort food, one dish stands out as a true gem – Eggplant Parmigiana. Also known as Eggplant Parmesan, this traditional dish made with layers of fried eggplant, a delicious pureed tomato sauce, and melted mozzarella and parmesan cheese. It’s a perfect choice for gatherings with friends or family.
Eggplant has become one of my favourite Summer Vegetables. There are so many different ways you can make eggplant delicious. From A Baked Eggplant Parmesan to Grilled Eggplant to an Amazing Appetizer. But one of our favorites is this Traditional Eggplant Parmigiana!
What is Eggplant Parmigiano?
Eggplant Parmigiano also known as Melanzane alla Parmigiana is a classic Italian dish made with slices of eggplant that are dredged in flour and fried, then layered with a simple tomato sauce and two types of cheese.
It’s layered and baked much like a lasagna with the eggplant taking place of the noodles. The result is a creamy delicious comfort food dish that will warm the soul and the stomachs of anyone lucky enough to taste it.
- Eggplant – 2-3 eggplants
- Flour – all purpose flour
- Mozzarella – fresh mozzarella cheese
- Parmesan cheese – freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
- Olive oil –
- Tomato puree – also known as passata
- Onion – white onion or a shallot
- Basil – fresh basil leaves
- Vegetable oil – sunflower, corn oil or light olive oil
Traditional eggplant parmigiana is made with a simple tomato sauce, so no added garlic or extra spices. And the eggplant slices are dredged in flour and not in a bread crumb coating.
The Origins of Eggplant Parmigiana
The origin of this traditional dish can be traced back to Southern Italy, where eggplant has been a staple ingredient for centuries. The dish was born out of a combination of the eggplant’s versatility and the region’s abundant tomatoes and cheese. In Italian is known as “Parmigiana di Melanzane”.
How to make Eggplant Parmigiana
Chop and cube the mozzarella, place the cubes in a sieve and drain, then use paper towels to gently dry the cheese.
Thinly slice the eggplant, place in a bowl and toss with salt. Let sit then drain. Lightly towel dry.
Dip the slices in flour, shake out any excess, then fry in hot oil until golden and tender. Move to a paper towel lined plate and drain.
In a large skillet or sauce pan add the oil and chopped onion sauté until transparent.
Add the pureed tomato, salt and fresh basil. Cook on medium high heat until thickened and creamy.
In a medium baking dish or casserole dish, add some sauce to the bottom of the pan, place a layer of eggplant on top.
Top with some sauce, grated parmesan cheese, some cubes of mozzarella continue for another couple of layers.
Bake until cooked through and golden on top. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with parmesan cheese before serving.
How to pick the perfect eggplant
It’s best to pick medium to small eggplants they are more tender and contain fewer seeds than the much bigger ones. You are going to find seeds in the eggplant, but no worries you can eat them, just make sure they are white and not black. Black seeds indicate a tougher older vegetable.
You can tell if it’s tender and young by its firmness, size, colour and uniformity. The best ones are tender but firm, with smooth, shiny skin. In good condition the stem should be bright green, as it turns brown it becomes less desirable.
Tips for making the best Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
- Make sure your fresh mozzarella is as dry as possible or it will produce a liquidy bake
- Always use the best ingredients including freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Be sure to cook the sauce until thickened and creamy, don’t over cook or under cook, it shouldn’t be too thick and pasty and not too liquidy. If the sauce is too thick add a little water.
- Eggplant Parmigiana is best served fresh out of the oven, allowing the cheese to be delightfully stringy and the sauce to be bubbling hot. Just let it sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- If the top is browning too much, then cover lightly with foil and continue baking.
What is authentic Parmesan?
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is authentic or DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta which means Protected Designation of Origin), and Parmesan cheese is just an imitation of Parmigiano Reggiano. Reggiano is always made in Italy, while Parmesan can be made anywhere, there are no restrictions on using the name Parmesan. And don’t forget a less expensive but also a DOP choice is Parmigiano Grana Padano.
Why grate your own Parmesan Cheese?
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A couple of reasons it’s better to grate your own. It’s cheaper and it tastes so much better. Packaged cheese tends to have a coating to keep the cheese from sticking together. Not a good thing.
Freshly ground parmesan cheese can be kept in a plastic bag or airtight container and stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. You can also store it in the freezer for up to 18 months.
What to serve with Eggplant Parmesan
How to store Eggplant Parmigiana
This eggplant parmesan bake will keep just as well as any other eggplant dish. You can store the leftovers in an airtight container, either altogether, or separated by serving size, and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.
If you want to make freeze half for later, or you want to make a double batch for an easy to heat up dinner during busy weeks, you can also freeze the dish.
To freeze, you’ll once again want to store everything in an airtight container once the dish is completely cooled. Then you can store it in the freezer for up to 4 months.
Eggplant Parmigiana, with its layers of fried eggplant, tomato sauce, and melted cheese, is a delicious representation of Italian comfort food. Whether you are an eggplant lover or a lover of Italian recipes, this is a dish I am sure you will love! Buon Appetito.
Traditional Eggplant Parmigiana
- 2-3 eggplants thinly sliced
- 1-2 teaspoons salt (divided)
- ¼-⅓ cup all purpose flour
- 23 ounces tomato puree/passata (1 bottle)
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup water
- 1 large or 2 medium fresh mozzarella (cubed about ¾-1 cup)
- ¾ cup freshly grated parmesan/parmigiano cheese
- 6-8 fresh basil leaves
- ½ medium white onion (or shallot) finely chopped
- 3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil (for frying)
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan/Parmigiano cheese
- Pre-heat the oven 350F/180C.
- Thinly slice the eggplant (a little less than ¼ inch), place in a bowl and toss with approximately 1 teaspoon of salt. Let sit then drain. Lightly towel dry. Dip the slices in flour, shake out any excess, then fry in hot oil until golden and tender. Move to a paper towel lined plate and drain.
- Chop and cube the mozzarella, place the cubes in a sieve and drain, then use paper towels to gently dry the cheese.
- In a large skillet or sauce pan add the olive oil and chopped onion, sauté for 2 minutes or until transparent. Then add the pureed tomato, salt and fresh basil. Cook on medium high heat until thickened and creamy.
- In a medium baking dish or casserole dish (about 10 inches / 25 cm), add some sauce to the bottom of the pan, place a layer of eggplant, top with some sauce, grated parmesan cheese, some cubes of mozzarella continue for another 2-3 of layers, depending on the size of your baking dish.
- Bake approximately 30-35 minutes until cooked through and golden on top. If it starts to brown too much, tent the dish with foil and continue baking. Remove from the oven, let sit 5-10 minutes, sprinkle with Parmigiano before serving. Enjoy!