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, this is the best eggplant Parmesan!
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 breaded eggplant.
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 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!
Read on to learn how to make one of the best Italian Side Dishes or meatless meals!
Eggplants: Pick skinnier ones if possible. They should have fewer seeds, which are bitter.
Make sure the eggplants are firm and not bruised. Look for green tops, not brown.
If you don't see any that look good, ask someone in the store's produce department to check if there are better ones in storage. After you buy them, use them within two days for best quality.
Parmesan: It wouldn't be Eggplant Parmigiana without Parmesan cheese! Use freshly grated Parmesan for the best taste and texture.
Provolone: Instead of using mozzarella, we're kicking the flavor up a notch with provolone! For convenience, buy round slices of provolone from the deli or dairy aisle.
Note that you can use thinly sliced provolone if you want a less cheesy eggplant dish. Otherwise, use regular slices, which we did for these photos. Both ways are delicious.
Sharp Provolone: This really kicks the flavor up a few notches! It brings the X-factor to our Eggplant Parmigiana, so don't skip it.
Buy a wedge of sharp provolone and cut part of it into cubes to scatter around the eggplant layers. A little goes a long way and will make people wonder, "What is that delicious taste?!!!"
Crushed Tomatoes: We're making a quick tomato sauce that's pleasantly mild and perfectly complements the eggplants. Besides the tomatoes, it contains olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper and fresh basil.
How to prepare eggplant for Parmigiana
- Peel the eggplant with a vegetable peeler or paring knife (affiliate link).
- Slice the eggplant into rounds.
- Salt the eggplant and place it in a colander with a sheet pan underneath to catch any liquid that may drip. Put a pot on top of the eggplants to weigh them down. This process prevents bitterness and sogginess while providing flavor.
How to make eggplant Parmigiana
See the card at the end of this post for the full recipe, but here's an overview.
Batter and fry the eggplant slices
- Dip each slice in flour.
- Dip the floured eggplant in beaten eggs.
- Fry the eggplant slices until they're golden brown on each side.
- Let the batter-fried eggplants drain on a cooling rack.
How to layer eggplant Parmesan
- Make the tomato sauce by stirring in the oil and seasonings to crushed tomatoes and cooking it for 10 minutes. Ladle a little sauce in the bottom of an 8x8 pan (affiliate link).
- Place a layer of batter-fried eggplants on top of the sauce. Dot them with more sauce and add some Parmesan.
- Cover the first layer with round slices of Provolone cheese. Sprinkle cut-up pieces of sharp provolone in between the eggplant slices.
- Repeat with three more layers of eggplant, sauce, Parmesan and provolone cheeses. Dot the top layer with sauce.
- Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes, until it's getting golden brown on top.
- If you prefer, you can make this recipe in a 9x13 pan and build just two layers instead of four. You wouldn't have to change the ingredient amounts.
- If you want to double this, you could use a 9x13 pan and make four layers of Eggplant Parmigiana.
Baked vs. fried eggplant slices
Traditional Eggplant Parmigiana from Naples calls for frying the eggplant slices before layering them with cheese, sauce and basil. Then the assembled Parmigiana dish is baked.
I experimented with baking the battered eggplant slices using three different methods, but found the eggplant really stuck to the pan without bread crumbs as a buffer. Some of the batter also started peeling off when I tried to lift the eggplant slices from the baking sheet with a spatula.
If you still want to bake the battered eggplant without bread crumbs, I've included directions in the notes of the recipe card. See below for another option that includes bread crumbs.
- When making eggplant Parmesan with flour and egg instead of bread crumbs, it's best to fry the eggplant slices.
- If you prefer baked eggplant slices, make this breaded eggplant in the oven then use the slices to assemble the eggplant Parmesan before baking it.
What to serve with it
Frequently asked questions
Yes, but you should freeze it after assembling it, without baking it first. Cook the eggplant slices and sauce as directed, then layer everything in a pan with cheese. Wrap the pan well with plastic wrap, then foil.
Freeze the assembled Eggplant Parmigiana for up to three months. Then, let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake as directed.
It's not mandatory to peel eggplant for eggplant Parmigiana, but I recommend doing so. The skin can taste bitter. It's also easier to eat eggplant without the skin on.
More eggplant recipes
- Pan-Fried Eggplant (also from Naples)
- Mom's Caponatina (Eggplant Caponata), a sweet-and sour Sicilian dish
- Roasted Eggplant Dip (Salata de Vinete), a Romanian appetizer.
- Chicken Sorrento with Eggplant
- Sautéed Eggplant with Garlic
- Pasta alla Norma, Sicilian eggplant pasta
If you try this Eggplant Parmigiana Recipe, please leave a comment and a rating!
Eggplant Parmigiana Recipe
- 2 pounds eggplants (2 medium-to-large eggplants)
- salt for drawing out moisture
- ¾ cup flour
- ⅓ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4-5 extra-large eggs (Start with 4 and use an extra one if needed.)
Oil for frying
- 1 ¼ cups enough canola oil to cover the bottom of your frying pan
- 28 ounces can of crushed tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 large basil leaves
- 6 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- black pepper
- 16 slices provolone cheese (Regular or thin-sliced; see notes.)
- 2 ounces sharp provolone (Cut small chunks from a wedge of sharp provolone.)
- 6-8 basil leaves
Slice & Salt the Eggplants
- A little over an hour before you start cooking the eggplants, rinse and pat them dry. Slice off the root and stem ends. Peel the eggplants using a small knife (cut the eggplant in half the short way, stand up each half, and slice off the skin from top to bottom.) Slice the eggplants into rounds ¼-inch-to-⅓ inch thick.
- To draw out moisture from the eggplants so they won't be soggy and will have better flavor, place a layer of eggplants in a colander placed over a sheet pan. Sprinkle salt on the eggplants, then add another layer of the slices. Salt those, then weigh the eggplants down with a round baking dish or pot. Let them sit for an hour.
Make the Tomato Sauce
- While the salted eggplants are resting, make the sauce. In a medium pot or 12-inch skillet, add the crushed tomatoes, olive oil, seasonings and basil. Stir to combine and heat on medium-high, until it comes to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook the sauce for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick. Turn off the heat when it's done. The sauce can stay at room temperature for up to two hours.
Batter & Fry the Eggplants
- After the eggplants have rested for an hour, use paper towels to wipe off the moisture and salt from the slices. If there are lots of seeds, scrape out some of them to prevent bitterness.
- Add the flour to a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag, if you have one, or else add the flour to a dinner plate. Stir in ⅓ teaspoon pepper and ¼ teaspoon salt.
- Add two eggs to a soup dish and beat the eggs with a fork.
- Set up an assembly line from left to right with the sliced eggplants, the flour, the eggs and a large platter. Add five or six eggplant slices to the flour mixture and coat both sides with flour. (If using a bag, just hold it closed and shake it.)
- Use a clean fork to transfer a couple of eggplant slices to the beaten eggs. Use another fork designated for the eggs to flip the eggplant slices, coating both sides with the eggs. Transfer the battered eggplant slices to the platter and continue with the rest of the eggplants.
- As the beaten eggs get thick with flour and are almost gone, rinse out the bowl and add a couple more eggs, as needed.
- To fry the eggplant slices (see notes if you want to bake them instead), heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. (You can use two pans, if you wish, to make it go faster.) When the oil is hot, add a single layer of sliced eggplants and cook the first side for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown. Flip the eggplants and cook the second side for two minutes, or until golden brown.
- Drain the fried eggplants on a baking rack placed over a sheet pan, or on a sheet pan lined with paper towels. Continue frying the eggplants in batches.
Assemble & Bake
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Choose either a square 8x8 pan for four layers of Eggplant Parmigiana (recommended) or a rectangular 9x13 baking pan to make two layers.
- To assemble the eggplant parm, cover the bottom of your pan with a layer of sauce. Blot the eggplants with paper towels to absorb the oil. Add a single layer of eggplants. Sprinkle them with pepper. For an 8x8 pan, sprinkle on one tablespoon of Parmesan per layer. For a 9x13 pan, sprinkle on two tablespoons of Parmesan per layer.
- Dot the eggplants with some sauce. Scatter some torn basil leaves on top. Add a layer of provolone slices, with a little bit of sharp provolone chunks scattered in the gaps.
- Add another layer of eggplants, sprinkle on pepper and Parmesan, dot with sauce and basil leaves, top with provolone slices and add scattered sharp provolone in the gaps. (If using an 8x8 pan, continue making two more layers.)
- Top the Eggplant Parmigiana with more sauce dotted around, and sprinkle with Parmesan.
- Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes, or until it's just getting golden brown on top.
- Let it rest for five minutes before slicing. Serve with extra sauce, if desired.
- Store leftover eggplant Parmesan in the refrigerator for up to four days. Store leftover sauce for up to five days in the refrigerator, or freeze the sauce for longer storage. See notes for how to freeze Eggplant Parmigiana before baking it.
- When making eggplant Parmigiana with flour and egg instead of bread crumbs, it's best to fry the eggplant slices.
- If you try to bake the eggplant after coating it with flour and egg, the slices will stick to the pan, since there are no bread crumbs in this recipe. Here is how to do it though: Place the battered slices on a greased baking sheet (don't use foil and don't use a baking rack, because they'll stick more.) Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes on the first side. Use a metal spatula to flip them over. Bake the second side for 5-7 minutes. Assemble as directed in the recipe.
- If you don't mind using bread crumbs, you can bake the eggplant slices using this breaded eggplant recipe instead.
- You can freeze Eggplant Parmigiana after assembling it, without baking it first. Cook the eggplant slices and sauce as directed, then layer everything in a pan with cheese. Wrap the pan well with plastic wrap, then foil. Freeze the assembled Eggplant Parmigiana for up to three months. Then, let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake as directed.
(Recipe Source: Cooking with Mamma C. Inspired by Mom's version. Originally published on February 17, 2018 and updated now with new photos, additional information and a tweak to the recipe to make it cheesier.)