This is sooo yummy! It has been decreed that in my house no other eggplant dishes are welcome.
It’s not a weeknight dish because it takes time at least three hours to prepare. But most of that is waiting, and the steps are all pretty easy. It also freezes really well. You can use either Asian or globe eggplants. I’ve only done it with Asian, though, because that’s what comes in my bag.
- about 1 lb eggplant (This could range from 1/2 lb to 2 lbs and still be okay. It only changes the tomato sauce to eggplant ratio. We like ours pretty high.)
- salt (Kosher salt is better)
- 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 clove or garlic, minced
- 1 tsp each of dried basil, thyme, and oregano (or use 1 tbsp Italian seasoning)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Fontina cheese slices (or Mozzarella, but Fontina is so much better)
- 3/4 cup grated Romano (or Parmesan) cheese
1. Peel eggplants with a knife or peeler. (This is optional. I’ve found the breading doesn’t stick as well to the peel. But it’s probably very good for you, so you might want to leave it on.)
2. Slice Asian eggplant lengthwise trying for 1/4 inch thick slices anywhere from 3 to 6 inches long. If you’re using globe eggplant, just slice into 1/4 inch rounds.
3. Purge the eggplant: Place eggplant slices in a layer in a colander in the sink or over a plate. Sprinkle generously with Kosher salt. Continue layering and salting the eggplant until all the eggplant is in the colander. Place a plate on top of the eggplant and add something else heavy to press the eggplant down. Leave for at least an hour. Globe eggplants will need longer than Asian eggplants.
4. While the eggplant is draining, chop up the garlic and grate the Parmsan. You could slice the Fontina here, too. You’ll need enough for two layers of whatever size pan you’re using.
5. When the eggplant’s almost ready, mix the breadcrumbs and flour in a wide shallow bowl or a plate with a high rim. Pour the beaten eggs in another. Then heat half an inch of olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat.
6. When the eggplant has drained, press down on the plate to remove extra moisture. Remove a slice and squeeze it with a paper towel to remove even more moisture. (See note below about the salt.) Dip in the egg and then the breadcrumb mixture and place in oil once the oil is shimmering. The eggplant should sizzle on contact. Once you’re sure the oil is ready, coat and and add more slices. Fry until golden brown, turning once. (Tongs are very helpful here.) Drain slices on paper towels.
(Note: the eggplant should look really beautiful fried. But taste it. It may be incredibly salty. Last time I made this, my fried eggplant were too salty to eat. But once it was combined with the unsalted tomato sauce and unsalted pasta, it was amazing. So be prepared to balance out the salt. If you want to use bottled tomato sauce, make sure your eggplant is less salty by brushing more of the salt off after purging. taste your eggplant, if it’s too salty, that’s okay. Just don’t add any more salt to the dish. If you want, you could use the recipe up to this point to make a fried eggplant appetizer, maybe with marinara sauce for dipping. If you do this, however, use kosher salt and brush some of it off after purging. Don’t rinse it, though, because that will just put more moisture back in.)
7. Put tomatoes, garlic, and seasoning in pot. Add 1/3 cup of the olive oil in which you fried the eggplant. Heat this mixture over medium until bubbling, stirring regularly.
8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Now you’re going to layer the eggplant, sauce, and cheeses. How many layers you have will depend on the size of the pan and the quantity of eggplant. Last time, I used a round 8.5″ glass pan about 1.5″ deep. This made for two packed layers plus the top layer of just sauce and Parmesan. However this pan was just big enough when I used 10 oz of eggplant. So if you have more eggplant, go with a larger pan.
Layers (usually two or three): 1 cup sauce + eggplant slices + Fontina cheese slices + grated Parmesan
Top layer: remaining sauce and Parmesan
9. Bake until cheese is slightly brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. (While the eggplant is cooking and resting, you can cook up some pasta.)