Eggplant Parmesan, also known as Melanzane alla Parmigiana in Italian, is a classic Italian dish that’s as comforting as it is delicious. This hearty vegetarian meal combines layers of thinly sliced eggplant, rich tomato sauce, and creamy mozzarella cheese, all baked to perfection. Its origins trace back to southern Italy, and it’s become a beloved staple in Italian-American cuisine.
The history of Eggplant Parmesan is intertwined with the migration of Italian immigrants to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They brought with them the flavors of their homeland, including this dish. Over the years, Eggplant Parmesan has evolved into a cherished Italian-American classic, earning a place on menus in countless Italian restaurants across the country.
Step 1: Preparing the Eggplant
- Start by preheating your oven to 375°F (190°C). This will be for later when we bake the assembled dish.
- Rinse the eggplants and trim off the ends. Then, slice them into 1/2-inch rounds. Sprinkle each round lightly with salt on both sides and let them sit for about 15 minutes. This helps draw out excess moisture and bitterness from the eggplants.
- After 15 minutes, rinse the eggplant slices under cold water to remove the salt. Pat them dry with paper towels.
Step 2: Breading and Frying the Eggplant
- Set up your breading station. In one shallow bowl, place the flour. In another, beat the eggs. In a third, put the breadcrumbs.
- Take each eggplant slice and dredge it in the flour, shaking off any excess. Next, dip it into the beaten eggs, allowing any excess to drip off. Finally, coat it with breadcrumbs, pressing the breadcrumbs onto the eggplant to adhere.
- Heat about 1/4 inch of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot (you can test it by dropping a breadcrumb – it should sizzle immediately), add the breaded eggplant slices in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry until they are golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Place the fried slices on paper towels to remove excess oil.
Step 3: Assembling and Baking
- In a mixing bowl, combine the grated Parmesan cheese and chopped basil.
- In your baking dish, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom. Arrange a layer of fried eggplant slices on top of the sauce, slightly overlapping them. Sprinkle some of the Parmesan and basil mixture over the eggplant, followed by a generous drizzle of mozzarella cheese.
- Repeat the layering process, finishing with a final layer of tomato sauce and a generous topping of mozzarella cheese.
- Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and place it in the preheated oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
Step 4: Serving and Garnishing
- Once out of the oven, let the Eggplant Parmesan rest for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh basil leaves if desired.
Eggplant Parmesan is a dish that’s deeply rooted in Italian culinary tradition and has found a special place in the hearts of food enthusiasts worldwide. Its layers of crispy fried eggplant, flavorful tomato sauce, and melted cheese create a symphony of flavors and textures that make it a beloved classic.
Whether you’re serving it as a main course or a side dish, Eggplant Parmesan is sure to delight your taste buds and transport you to the charming streets of Italy. So, roll up your sleeves, follow these steps, and savor a taste of la dolce vita in your own kitchen. Buon appetito!