A casserole of bubbling vegetables coated in sauce like this Baked Eggplant Parmesan sounds so good this time of the year, especially when the weather in the evenings dips below a temperature that merits a warm and cozy meal. Italian food is always a favorite in my house and it beckons for a dish filled with sliced eggplant layered with a zesty marinara and cheese. I prefer to bake, not fry my eggplant before I assemble my casserole, 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 are not crusted beforehand, and cooked with just a drizzle of oil. Breadcrumbs are sprinkled on top at the end of baking, as opposed to applying before frying, giving a similar crunch similar to traditional eggplant parmesan.
I prefer to serve this casserole as a side dish, but you can enjoy it as a full vegetarian meal with a crispy side salad and a wedge of rustic bread for spooning up that last bit of sauce on your plate. It reheats nicely at lunchtime for a quick noon meal or enjoy it cold with mixed greens for a fun twist.
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!