My coworker came in the other day and said, "Lauren. You have to make this. You don't understand. It's perfect." Right, right. I LOVE eggplant parm so I figured I'd try it out, but my expectations were low. Homemade eggplant parm is so temperamental. The eggplant gets bitter. The eggplant gets soggy. The breading comes off and separates from the eggplant entirely once you've put it on your plate. It just never is quite right.
Well, this one is. This is the best parm recipe I've ever made and I don't plan to make any other one ever again. This involves roasting the eggplants, layering with cheese and sauce, and then adding a panko breadcrumb topping towards the end. Oh my gosh. No, seriously. It's perfect. I will absolutely make this again.
Baked Eggplant Parm
Lick My Spoon
1/2 cup olive oil
3 pounds eggplant
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
5 teaspoons minced garlic -- divided
15 ounces ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup plus 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and brush the parchment with olive oil.
Cut the eggplant into ¼-inch slices and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Flip the slices over and repeat, so now both sides of the eggplant are oiled and salted. Roast until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes, flipping the eggplant halfway through. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool while you prepare the remainder of the ingredients. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F.
In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with 3 teaspoons of the garlic over medium heat. Let cook until the garlic is fragrant and starting to toast. Add the tomatoes to the pan and bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the sugar. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat, then add the basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.
In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, 1 cup of parmigiano, and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Assemble the Eggplant Parm: spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, followed by half of the roasted eggplant, 1 cup more tomato sauce, half of the ricotta mixture and half of the mozzarella. Repeat: eggplant, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella.
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, remaining 2 teaspoons garlic, 1/4 cup parmigiano and panko. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Once the filling is bubbling, take the casserole out of the oven, remove the foil and sprinkle the panko mixture evenly over the top. Continue baking, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown and crisp, about 20-25 more minutes. If the topping is not browning, drizzle a little olive oil over the top and place under the broiler (keep an eye on it, it'll brown quickly under there). Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
Make Ahead: This is a great dish to make ahead. Make everything through Step 5. Cover the assembled Eggplant Parm with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator up to two days before serving. I usually prep the panko topping as well and keep this in an airtight container in the fridge. When you're ready to bake the dish, bring it to room temperature and continue with Steps 6 and 7.