Baked Eggplant Parmesan Stackers

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parm’, easily one of my favorite dishes. However, I’ve only been eating it for the last 9 years. Eggplant wasn’t a vegetable my family cooked with but after meeting Mike (my very Jersey-Italian husband) and his mom I quickly developed a liking for this classic Italian dish.

Honestly, I can’t say eggplant has a lot of flavor on it’s own, but because of that it makes the perfect compliment to carry other flavors, i.e. yummy marinara sauce, bread crumbs and cheese (eggplant is also really good in curry an hummus).

Now there are several ways you can make eggplant parm. Mike’s mom would slice the eggplant really thin, pan fry it and layer it in a baking dish like a lasagna. Another version is what you may see in restaurants, they take long slices from the eggplant (think steak) bread and pan fry or bake. I prefer these cute little stacks, I think they make a pretty presentation and are easy to eat.

Secret ingredient to lighten up this dish? Lemon!

Secret ingredient to lighten up this dish? Lemon!

Assembly Line. Dried and peeled eggplant, flour, egg wash, breadcrumbs.

Assembly Line. Dried and peeled eggplant, flour, egg wash, breadcrumbs.

Once baked, make another assembly line with the cooked eggplant, mozzarella, ricotta cheese and sauce.

Once baked, make another assembly line with the cooked eggplant, mozzarella, ricotta cheese and sauce.

Finish off with sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan.

Finish off with sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan.

Cheese Mixture. Ricotta, Italian herbs, egg, salt, pepper, and lemon

Cheese Mixture. Ricotta, Italian herbs, egg, salt, pepper, and lemon

Coat both sides well and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Coat both sides well and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Layering. Start with a little sauce at the bottom, layer one eggplant, ricotta cheese, a little more sauce then another eggplant.

Layering. Start with a little sauce at the bottom, layer one eggplant, ricotta cheese, a little more sauce then another eggplant.

Bake until all the cheese is hot and bubbly. Eat and enjoy!

Bake until all the cheese is hot and bubbly. Eat and enjoy!

Ingredients - yields 8 servings

2-3 large eggplant, peeled and sliced into 16, 1/2-inch slices
Cheese Filling Mixture:
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon each of dried basil, oregano and thyme
juice from 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Breading:
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, beaten
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
salt and fresh ground black pepper, to your taste
Assembly
8 slices of fresh mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 32oz jar of your favorite tomato sauce. (I like Rao’s Marinara Sauce)

How to:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare eggplant. Using a vegetable peeler peel off the skin. (You can leave it on but for some it can be a little difficult to digest and my husband prefers it without, so I take it off.) Slice peeled eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds.

Sprinkle both sides with salt and place on a paper towel. Place another paper towel on top and press down. This pulls the moisture out of the eggplant. It’s not necessary but it will make the eggplant less bitter and more crisp when baked. Set to the side while you prepare the cheese filling and dredging ingredients.

Place ricotta cheese, herbs, egg lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix well to combine. Set to the side.

Place flour on a plate or shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Beat eggs in a bowl. Combine breadcrumbs and panko in another shallow bowl.

Retrieve eggplant slices, discard paper towels and wipe off any extra moisture and salt. Coat both sides of the eggplant slices in flour, then dip in egg and finally coat with breadcrumb mixture. Place on prepared, parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat for all 16 slices.

Bake for 12-15 minutes. Flip eggplant slices and bake an additional 10-12 minutes or until both sides are golden and eggplant is tender.

Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish with butter, olive oil or cooking spray. Spoon just enough marinara sauce into the baking dish to cover the bottom.

Place 8 of the largest eggplant rounds in the baking dish. Spoon a little ricotta cheese on each eggplant, followed by a little more sauce and another eggplant round. Top with more sauce, a slice of mozzarella cheese and a little Parmesan.

Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake 15 minutes, remove foil and broil until cheese begins to brown and gets all bubbly.

Optional - garnish with fresh basil.

Serve hot with a side of pasta or a vibrant green salad! Enjoy!