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Eggplant Parmesan: Classic Italian Recipe

Eggplant Parmesan, or eggplant parmigiana, is a classic Italian dish.

Today I am presenting my family’s favorite recipe for eggplant parmesan – Sicilian style.

The one my grandmother used to make, the one my mother makes, and the one I inherited.

eggplant parmesan

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Sicilian style eggplant parmesan has two characteristics that differentiate it from other versions:

  • The eggplants are fried “in purity”, without being dipped in egg, flour or breadcrumbs.
  • Sicilian Parmesan is made with very simple ingredients: eggplant, tomato sauce, fresh basil and a sprinkling of parmesan or caciocavallo cheese.
eggplant parmesan

What Is Eggplant Parmesan?

Eggplant Parmesan, also called simply parmigiana or eggplant parmigiana, is a side dish made with eggplant (of course), tomato puree and lots of parmesan cheese.

We said that it is a side dish, that is true, but parmigiana can also be brought to the table as a single dish since it is a rich recipe.

Ingredients Needed

These are the main ingredients you need for this Eggplant Parmesan.

For the step-by-step directions and measurements, scroll down to our printable recipe card. 

Eggplants: For this parmesan recipe, the best eggplant to use is the Black Oval Eggplant.

best eggplant for parmesan -  Black Oval Eggplant.

When choosing fresh eggplant, it is important to pay special attention to the skin, which should be smooth, turgid, shiny and free of bumps.

It is best if the eggplant has a well-attached, non-dried stem.

Choose small instead large eggplants, usually small ones have less seeds.

Tomato sauce (passata): I use grocery store passata.

Passata is a more liquid product than pulp as the tomatoes are chopped and placed in their own water.

Onion, Garlic, Basil: They are used to flavor the tomato sauce. 

Parmesan cheese: The only cheese used in this parmiggiana.

Extra virgin olive oil: I use olive oil to fry eggplant, Any oil is fine, but I find that olive oil gives a best flavor to eggplant

Salt & black pepper: To flavor.

How To Make Eggplant Parmesan: The Authentic Recipe

Step 1

Prepare the eggplant.

Wash and dry the eggplant. Cut the ends of the eggplant and slice into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Place them in a colander and sprinkle a little bit of coarse salt on each layer.

purge the eggplant with salt

Cover them with a plate and put a weight on them. Leave them for at least an hour.

This method is used to remove the bitter taste from the eggplant.

Wash them under running water to remove excess salt and fry them in plenty of olive oil.

Place them in a plate with paper towel to remove excess oil.

You can also roasted eggplant in the oven (375°F degrees for 15 minutes) or in an air fryer (350°F degrees for about 10 minutes).

Step 2

In a saucepan, brown the onion with a whole garlic clove at medium heat; when the onion is golden brown, add the tomato sauce and cook until the sauce is well reduced.

cook the tomato sauce

Add some red pepper flakes if you like a spicy touch.

Step 3

Assemble the Eggplant Parmigiana.

In a baking dish, make a first thin layer of sauce, then a single layer of fried eggplant slices, a generous amount of Parmesan cheese, and repeat.

Step 4

Bake for about 30 minutes in a preheated oven.

Let the eggplant parmesan rest before cutting and serving.

Tips To Make The Best Eggplant Parmesan

  • Always purge the eggplant.

Eggplants should always be salted, whatever preparation you are about to make.

This is a tip that applies to eggplant parmigiana, but also to all other recipes that call for this ingredient.

This way they will lose the bitter vegetation water and give a better result in cooking.

  • Cut the eggplants the same thickness for more even cooking.
  • The tomato sauce should not be too runny.
  • Parmigiana taste better when is room temperature.

Besides, the longer it rests the better it will taste.

Variations To The Classic Eggplant Parmesan

Vegan eggplant parmigiana: Use vegan cheese for vegan eggplant parmesan version.

Add mozzarella: In some Italian regions they add ham and fresh mozzarella cheese or shredded mozzarella in the layers.

Unbaked eggplant parmesan: Prepare sauce with fresh tomatoes and cook eggplant.

Arrange directly on the plate, forming layers with the tomato and basil sauce and cheese.

Unbaked eggplant parmesan in a plate

What to Serve With Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant parmigiana is a great side dish for these delicious breaded pork chops, but serve it with this delicious focaccia to make it a main dish as well.

FAQ’s : Frequently Asked Questions

How To Store And Freeze

You can store the eggplant parmesan in the refrigerator for about 3 days in a airtight container.

If you need to prepare them well in advance, you can also prepare the parmigiana and arrange it in the baking dish, cover with plastic wrap then freeze it.

You can then cook it while still frozen, increasing the cooking time by at least 15 minutes.

If, on the other hand, you have leftovers already cooked, you can freeze it and then thaw it in the microwave or in the oven.

How many layers should eggplant parm be?

Minimum three layers of eggplant for the perfect parmigiana.

Do I need to salt my eggplant before making eggplant parmesan?

This is a very useful, and in some cases essential procedure to eliminate the bitter taste typical of this vegetable.

I always do this when cooking eggplant, better safe than sorry used to say my grandmother

Do you leave the eggplant skin for eggplant parmesan?

 Some prefer them with the skin and some without. In my family they always left it. 

What sauce are we using?

I use passata, and I cook well shrunk, but a good tomato pulp or homemade tomato sauce is also fine for this recipe.

What is the best way to cook eggplant?

To make the eggplant parmigiana authentic, the eggplant must be fried.

But also baked with a drizzle of oil or even roasted create a delicious variation of parmigiana.

More eggplant recipes:

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

parmigiana eggplant

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Yield: 6 portions

How To Make Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan parmigiana

Eggplant parmiggiana as my grandmother used to make it.

Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Rest 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 Eggplants
  • Salt & Black Pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small Onion
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • 3 1/2 cup Tomato sauce
  • 10 Basil leaves
  • Olive oil (for frying)
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. To prepare eggplant parmesan according to the traditional Sicilian recipe, start by washing the eggplants well.
  2. Dry them and cut them into not too thin slices (5mm).
  3. As you cut them, place them in a colander and sprinkle them with a little fine salt. Form layers, sprinkling each layer with salt.
  4. Then take a weight (such as a large pot full of water) and place it on top of the eggplant, so that it keeps it well pressed down. Underneath the colander place a plate and leave the eggplant to drain for at least an hour. (1*)
  5. While the eggplants are purging you can prepare the sauce: finely chop the onion and cut the garlic in half, removing the central part. Fry the garlic and onion in 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.
  6. When the onion has become transparent, add the tomato pulp, a pinch of salt and pepper, and close the pot with the lid. Let it cook on low heat for 15-20 minutes, then turn off the heat and remove the garlic.
  7. After an hour, remove the weight from the eggplants, squeeze them one by one and rinse them under water to remove the salt.
  8. Then dry them carefully with a clean cloth .
  9. Heat plenty of olive oil in a thick-bottomed pan, then fry the eggplant a few at a time for about 3 minutes, turning halfway through cooking.
  10. When they are just golden, drain them well and let them dry on a sheet of kitchen paper that will absorb the excess oil.
  11. While they are still hot, salt them lightly.
  12. Now that all the ingredients are ready you can assemble your Sicilian style eggplant parmigiana.
  13. Spread the bottom of an ovenproof dish with a ladleful of tomato sauce.
  14. Arrange the fried eggplant next to each other without overlapping. Cover with a generous amount of tomato sauce garnished with fresh basil leaves.
  15. Cover everything with abundant grated cheese. Continue forming another layer of eggplant and tomato seasoned with basil and Parmesan cheese, until all the ingredients are used up.
  16. Preheat the oven to 180 C degrees (350 F degrees ) and bake the eggplant parmigiana for about 30 minutes in static mode.
  17. At the end of cooking, if the surface has not yet taken color, you can briefly turn on the grill.
  18. Take the parmigiana out of the oven and let it cool.
  19. The Parmesan is ready!
  20. Top with fresh basil leaves and enjoy!

Notes

1* You will see that from the colander will come out some dark liquid, that is the water contained in the eggplants themselves. This step of salting the eggplants, although a bit boring, is very important for two reasons: first because it allows you to eliminate the possible bitter aftertaste of the eggplants themselves.
In this way the eggplants will lose their water and will be less spongy, thus absorbing less oil during cooking.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 305Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 1004mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 12gSugar: 18gProtein: 9g

Nutrition is automatically calculated by Nutritionix - please verify all nutrition information independently and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for any and all medical and diet advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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Anita Orsino

Saturday 16th of September 2023

This recipe is great. I have to use passata because pieces of tomato actually make me nauseous. The Passata being strained so no skin, no seeds, and no peel is perfect for me. We sometimes make a patty of the eggplant slices with some meatball mix in between the slices, then frying them in the oil. Otherwise everything is identical, It is good either way.

Thanks for sharing.

Ms Su

Tuesday 25th of July 2023

If you remove the water of the eggplant, it will absorb more oil.

Angie

Monday 24th of June 2024

I found it to be the other way around :)

Ms Su

Tuesday 25th of July 2023

Why remove the natural water an natural flavor of the eggplant? I have made eggplant parmesana, and stuffed eggplant that taste like eggplant.

Angie

Monday 24th of June 2024

It may happen that eggplants are bitter, with this method you remove the bitterness.

Paul DiBlasi

Saturday 17th of December 2022

Outstanding, thanks.

Angie

Monday 2nd of January 2023

Thank you so much :)

mark

Monday 5th of December 2022

Do you cover it in the oven?

Angie

Tuesday 6th of December 2022

Hi :) no I don't cover

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