Introduction: Best Eggplant Parmesan Ever
Try this recipe at home and you'll agree, it really is the best eggplant Parmesan recipe ever! It takes one simple trick to turn this dish from ordinary to extraordinary.
I love a simple eggplant Parmesan for a hearty weeknight meal, but I hate how traditional eggplant parm recipes are soggy and dense. Through experimentation, I discovered that much better results can be achieved by changing the order in which the toppings are layered. Here is how it goes...
*This recipe can also be prepared with an air fryer or you can bake the breaded eggplant, but the results won’t be quite as crispy.
Recipe for four servings (most measurements are estimated actual usage - it's a pretty freeform dish!)
If you want to make less, I recommend still making the entire amount of sauce because the leftover sauce freezes really nicely.
- 2 large eggplants (aubergines)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup/120g flour
- 8 oz/225g panko bread crumbs (can substitute dry breadcrumbs for less crunch)
- 1/4 cup/60mL olive oil (can substitute vegetable oil)
- 32 oz/946mL vegetable oil
- 15 oz/425g can of tomato sauce
- 4 oz/115g mozarella cheese (we used a block but shredded is fine)
- 2 oz/55g Parmesan cheese
- 1 bunch fresh oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried)
- Fresh basil to garnish
- Cutting Board
- Chef's Knife (I love my Victorinox knife! It's lighter than my Henckels and was given top marks by Cooks Illustrated. You can get a black one here, or any kind of crazy color here.
- Tongs (we actually used one set for dredging and one for frying, so get this two-pack!)
- Wooden spoon or spatula (this one was custom-made for me by Instructables member Jayefuu! (Ok, it doesn't have to be wooden, really anything is fine, just don't scrape your pans!)
- Sauce Pot (that's an expensive one because I love me some All-Clad and you'll never need to replace it)
- Saute Pan (I bought mine as this set because I'm a huge fan)
- Microplane or cheese grater (This one is amazing on hard cheeses, even though it's technically a zester. It creates billowy threads instead of thick shreds. And you can still use it on your citrus. Get one of these and you'll never go back!)
- Cooling Rack for letting the fried eggplant drain
- Oven-Safe Dish (the size will depend on how many you're making at one time)
- Quick Read Thermometer that will read up to 350°F/180°C (helpful, but not entirely necessary)
- Paper Towels
Step 1: Make Tomato Sauce
I find it best to start by preparing the sauce. This dish requires a lot of space and the sauce can be made quickly and set aside for later.
First, remove the oregano from the stems by running you fingers down the center branch, and then chop finely.
Next, chop the ends off of the garlic cloves and smash with the flat side of a chef’s knife to remove the skin. Chop finely.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Be careful not to make the heat too high, or all three ingredients will burn.
Add the oregano first, and let it cook for about a minute or less, and then stir in the garlic.
After about 15 to 30 seconds, turn the heat to low, and pour in the full can of tomato sauce and let it bubble for a few minutes. The sauce does not need to cook down, so it should be ready at this point. Cover and set it aside,
*Optional* Add a glug of dry red wine you’ve had sitting around if that’s your kind of thing.
Step 2: Breading Eggplant
Before anything else, I like to start heating the oil as it takes a little time to come to temp. The ideal temperature is 350°F/180°C. This is equivalent to about medium heat on my range, but yours may be different. I do not recommend turning the heat to high in order to warm the oil faster as you do not have enough control. It is much better to be patient and allow it to heat gradually.
It is time to prep the eggplant for frying while the oil heats.
First, slice crossways into even steaks. I like them on the thick side, but you may prefer thinner ones. Just remember it does change the cooking time.
Pour the flour into a large bowl or zip-top bag. Toss the eggplant slices in the flour to cover them evenly. Knock off any excess, as the egg will not stick if the layer is too thick.
Beat the eggs into a bowl and dip the slices to get them covered. Let them soak for a few seconds per side to fully immerse the flour, then let the excess egg drip off. I like to use tongs because the egg makes everything stick to your fingers.
Finally, toss the slices in the panko (or bread crumbs). Again, I avoid touching them to reduce mess and clumping. Do not pour all the panko into the bowl once. It will have a nicer texture if you just put a in a little at a time. If it sits in there too long, it gets clumpy with the repeated egg dipping.
Stack the finished slices aside and get ready for cooking. I like to clean up all the prep stuff first because this dish tends to spread out quickly.
Step 3: Frying Eggplant
Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the oil. If it is too high, the panko will burn before the eggplant cooks, and if it is too low, it will just sit in the oil.
If you do not have a thermometer, use a smaller end piece of prepared eggplant as a tester. The oil should immediately bubble rapidly when the eggplant is added, and should only take a minute or two to cook on each side. If the panko turns brown instantly, the heat is way too high. If the oil does not bubble rapidly around the eggplant, it is too low. Look for a nice, golden-brown color as an indication of finish.
Line a cooling rack with paper towels and place the cooked slices there to set. Season with a healthy amount of salt, and put the hot oil safely outside to cool. This will also get the smell of the oil out of the kitchen more quickly.
Step 4: Melt the Cheese
This seemingly simple step is the key to the crispiest eggplant Parmesan. Most recipes instruct you to put the sauce on top of the cooked eggplant slice and then add cheese to melt on top, but a simple reversal of the steps should produce better results. If the mozzarella (or provolone) is added first, it will protect the panko from the sauce, and the dish will have a much better texture.
Set your broiler on high, and slice or grate the cheese. Place the eggplant slices in a baking dish and top with the cheese. You may prefer a lot of cheese, or just a little - it's up to you.
Put them in the oven, and keep an eye on them. Take them out when the cheese is browned the way you like it.
*Be sure to eat at least one slice without any topping because they are awesome that way too :)
Step 5: Finishing Steps
Place two of the eggplant slices on a plate and ladle a small amount of sauce on top.
Top with a liberal amount of grated Parmesan cheese.
Prep a little fresh basil as a topper. Some people like it chopped, and some like the look of whole leaves. Sprinkle the basil on top and maybe some freshly cracked pepper.
First Prize in the
Fried Food Challenge