You’ll love this Eggplant Parmigiana Recipe! As in Naples, the eggplants are dipped in flour and egg, but no bread crumbs. Featuring three kinds of cheese, fresh basil and a light tomato sauce.
Everybody loves eggplant Parm. Am I right?
But, did you know there are different versions of Eggplant Parmigiana in Southern Italy? You’re probably familiar with the style from Sicily and Calabria that features bread crumbs.
But in Naples, where eggplant Parmesan likely originated (and where Mom’s from), no bread crumbs are used in this dish. Instead, the sliced eggplants are dipped in flour and egg, then shallow-fried until golden (before being layered with cheese, sauce and basil and getting baked).
Skipping the bread crumbs makes for a lighter Eggplant Parmigiana recipe, where the flavor of the vegetable really pops. There’s no tinge of sogginess, either.
Don’t get me wrong. I love both versions and have never turned down eggplant Parmesan in my life!
Here’s what I use in this recipe to get fabulous flavor:
- I skip the traditional mozzarella, which is very mild tasting. Instead, I use a combo of regular provolone, a touch of sharp provolone, and the requisite Parmesan. That bit of sharp provolone greets your taste buds with an awesome hello on the first bite.
- I scatter torn, fresh basil leaves (straight from my freezer!) throughout the Eggplant Parmigiana layers. I know it’s winter, but if you see large containers of basil leaves in your grocery store, buy them and place them in a freezer bag within a few days. Add the leaves (they’ll be soggy but still flavorful) to sauces and baked dishes.
- I make a very quick, plain sauce with just crushed tomatoes, olive oil, garlic powder, basil, salt and pepper. Besides being less work than a sauce with fresh garlic and onions, it’s pleasantly mild and perfectly complements the eggplants.
Baked vs. Fried Eggplant Parmigiana
While I love the crispy eggplants in the traditional fried version here, I have to tell you about my experiments with baking the battered slices. (If you’ve been a Cooking with Mamma C reader for a while, you know I test a recipe multiple times before posting it.)
Eggplants coated with just flour and egg (no bread crumbs) will stick to your pan when baked. I tried three different ways, and discovered it’s best to skip foil or a baking rack and just bake them on a greased sheet pan. Still, you’ll need to scrape them with a metal spatula to flip them over, and some of the batter will peel off.
But…the beauty of Eggplant Parmigiana is you’re going to make layers covered with sauce and cheese, so your eggplant slices don’t have to look gorgeous. The all-baked version of this recipe tastes delicious, although less crispy. I’ve included instructions for that option in the recipe card notes.
Bottom line: Frying the eggplants will be less stressful and can be done quickly in batches (you can even use two pans if you have them.) You’ll need to dab the fried slices with paper towels to absorb the oil, but, you’ll get an incredible, slightly crispy texture that works so well juxtaposed with the melted cheese, light tomato sauce and fresh basil.
How to Choose Eggplants
- Pick skinnier ones if possible. They should have fewer seeds. (The seeds are bitter.)
- Make sure the eggplants are firm and not bruised.
- Look for green tops, not brown.
- If the eggplants on display at the grocery store look bad, ask a produce employee if there are more in the back. He or she can bring out a box and let you pick the ones you want. (Mom taught me this!)
Use your eggplants within two days of buying them. Now, go make some Eggplant Parmigiana!
P.S. If you love eggplants as much as I do, you’ll want to check out these Parmesan Eggplants with Tomato Sauce (also from Naples, but different than Parmigiana). And, don’t miss Mom’s Caponata (Eggplant Salad), a sweet-and sour Sicilian dish, or Roasted Eggplant Dip (Salate de Vinete), a Romanian appetizer.
(Recipe Source: Cooking with Mamma C. If you’re looking for Mom’s Eggplant Parmigiana recipe, this ain’t it. Hers is in the vault. But mine’s similar…and awesome…I promise!)