Casseroles of bubbling vegetables coated in sauce sound so good this time of the year, especially when the whether in the evenings dips below a temperature that definitely merits a warm meal. Italian food is always a favorite in my household, and I’m sure in most, and that beckons for a dish filled with sliced eggplant, layered with marinara and cheese. I prefer to bake, not fry my eggplant, giving it a healthier spin without losing out on flavor.
What I notice when I bake eggplant slices, instead of frying, is that they are more intense in flavor and become a predominant taste in this dish, because they’re not crusted beforehand, or cooked in much oil. Breadcrumbs are sprinkled on top at the end of baking, as opposed to applying before frying, and give a similar mouthfeel, like a traditional Eggplant Parmesan.
I served this casserole as a side dish, along with some pan seared fish, but you can enjoy it as a full vegetarian meal. I also think it would be great served with beef or turkey at the holidays, for a festive family affair. It also reheats nicely at lunchtime for a quick meal, a second time around.
2 small globe eggplants
2 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano + more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 ounces sliced mozzarella
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs, regular or gluten-free
salt & pepper
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice eggplant 1/4 inch thick and place on a parchment lined sheet pan. Brush eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees.
- In a bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon salt.
- Oil a 1-quart casserole dish. Place 1/3 of eggplant slices in the bottom. Then, 1/3 of sauce, 1/3 of mozzarella, sprinkling of oregano and 1/3 of Parmesan. Repeat twice more.
- Bake in oven for 20 minutes, or until lightly bubbling. In a small bowl, combine Panko with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over casserole and place back in oven to brown slightly for 5 minutes. Serve warm, Enjoy!