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A terrific Eggplant Parmesan recipe! Light and crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. Pure Italian comfort food!
Eggplant Parmesan is one of those dishes that we love eating at restaurants – and it’s also easy to prepare at home.
Our version features a stack of breaded slices that are lightly fried, leaving the outside perfectly crispy with a soft and creamy center. The vegetable rounds are layered with a wonderful homemade tomato sauce and a combination of four different kinds of cheese, then baked in the oven.
Why is my eggplant bitter and what can I do about it?
Many people are intimidated to cook with eggplant at home because it has a reputation for tasting bitter.
While some people are more sensitive to the flavor than others, larger, dark-skinned eggplant can sometimes be bitter – especially if they have sat on the vine for too long.
I’ve also read that a male eggplant is less bitter than female eggplants because they have fewer seeds. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, to tell the difference, inspect the flower or stem end of the eggplant. Male eggplants have a small, round, smooth end, while the female eggplant has a more irregular, less-smooth end.
In today’s recipe, we share a special trick for removing that bitterness. Just sprinkle both sides of the eggplant slices with a generous amount of salt, then allow it to sit for up to two hours. This salting process draws out any bitter liquid – which is then rinsed off before cooking.
Why you’ll love Eggplant Parmesan!
- Each bite is tender and full of flavor without any bitterness.
- It’s simple to prepare, but elegant enough for guests.
- You can do much of the prep ahead of time.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
Eggplant – Choose one that is a shiny, deep dark purple color with a green stem. The skin should be smooth and not wrinkled or blemished. It should also feel heavy for its size. Test for ripeness by gently squeezing the vegetable. It should feel firm but have some give.
Breadcrumbs – While we used the finer, Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs, you can swap in panko instead if you like extra crunch. Simply stir in 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning mix, so you don’t miss out on the flavor!
Tomato sauce – Homemade sauces make everything taste better! You can find our recipe Italian Tomato Sauce recipe here, or feel free to buy two jars of your favorite store-bought sauce in a pinch.
Cheese – This recipe uses a combination of cheeses including grated Parmesan (of course) and Romano cheeses, plus slices of Mozzarella and Fontina cheese. Fontina easily melts in the oven, but you can swap in additional Mozzarella if you prefer. (You may just need to bake the dish a few minutes longer if you use Mozzarella since it doesn’t melt as easily as the Fontina.)
Pasta – Baked Eggplant Parmesan can be served on its own, but we love it over spaghetti to soak up the extra sauce. Other varieties of long-strand pasta can be used instead or try rotini or bowtie for more texture.
Chef’s Tip –
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin of the eggplant before slicing the vegetable into rounds. Be sure that each slice is similar in thickness, so they cook evenly.
How do I make baked Eggplant Parmesan?
- Peel and slice the eggplant. Then sprinkle both sides generously with salt and let them sit for up to 2 hours.
- Rinse the slices to remove the salt and bitter liquid. Pat dry thoroughly so the breading adheres to the surface.
- Prepare the breading ingredients. First, whisk together eggs and milk in a shallow bowl or dish. Then add the seasoned flour to another dish, and breadcrumbs to a third.
- Dip the slices in flour. Next, dip them in the egg wash. Then dip them in the breadcrumbs. Be sure to coat both sides and around the edges, before placing it on a tray. Continue until each slice is coated.
- Fry a few rounds at a time in hot oil, draining once golden brown. Spread a little tomato sauce along the bottom of a baking dish, and place the largest rounds along the bottom.
- Layer the vegetable slices with cheese and more sauce, stacking from largest to smallest, to create a tower. Cover the pan tightly with parchment and foil.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, removing the cover for the last 5 minutes. Then broil for a few more minutes to brown the tops.
- Serve over a bed of cooked pasta with extra sauce and cheese.
Chef’s Tips –
Always use a candy thermometer to ensure your frying oil is the correct temperature. Don’t crowd the pan. This causes the temperature to drop. Allow the oil to heat back up between each batch.
Use one hand for wet and one hand for dry when dredging the vegetable slices. This will help keep ingredients in their separate dishes and prevent your hands from getting caked with breading.
Once the towers are stacked, insert a toothpick through the center of each. This will hold everything together while it bakes and make it easier to plate the towers for serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
What side dishes go with baked Eggplant Parmesan? This is a complete meal on its own, but you could certainly add a green salad and garlic bread if you would like! Or go a more traditional route, and munch on our antipasto salad while it bakes.
How long do leftovers last in the refrigerator? When stored in an airtight container, they should keep for 3 to 5 days. Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, and cover with foil for best results.
Do you need to salt the eggplant before making this dish? Yes! This draws any bitter liquid out of the vegetable, which is rinsed away before cooking.
Is it better to use one large vegetable or two small ones? This is really a matter of preference and what’s available. If you are extra sensitive to flavors, the smaller ones tend to be less bitter.
Can I double this easy Eggplant Parmesan recipe? Yes, but you will need an additional baking dish. We would also recommend two skillets for frying and maybe a kitchen helper to get it assembled quickly.
Can I make this as a casserole rather than in stacks? Yes – the process is basically the same, but the baking time will likely be different.
This post originally appeared on A Family Feast in April 2013. We’ve updated the photos and post, but the delicious recipe remains the same.
You might like these other Eggplant Recipes:
- Eggplant and Garlic Pizza
- Whole30 Stuffed Eggplant
- Grilled Graffiti Eggplant
- Eggplant Fries with Marinara Sauce
- Grilled Zucchini Salad
1 ¼ pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 15 half-inch slices (1 large or two small eggplants)
2 teaspoons kosher salt to salt the eggplant
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 ½ cups seasoned Italian bread crumbs
Vegetable oil – enough to fill a 14 inch skillet with 1 inch of oil
1 ½ quarts tomato sauce (see our recipe here), or 2 24-ounce bottles of your favorite jarred sauce
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
¼ pound Fontina cheese, sliced
5 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese
½ pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 10 slices
1/2 pound of your favorite pasta for serving, we used spaghetti
- After peeling and slicing the eggplant into 15 half-inch thick slices, lay them flat on a rack over a sheet tray and sprinkle both sides with the two teaspoons of salt. (Don’t worry about over salting as it will get rinsed off later; this salting process draws out the bitterness of the eggplant.) Allow the slices to sit for 1 ½ to up to 2 hours at room temperature (You will see moisture bead up on the slices). After sitting for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, rinse the slices under cold water then pat dry with paper towels.
- Lay out two pie plates and a medium bowl. Place flour, salt and pepper in the first pie plate and stir. Place eggs and milk in the bowl and whisk well. Place the seasoned bread crumbs in the second pie plate. Have a tray to collect the breaded slices.
- After rinsing and drying, dip each slice of eggplant in flour and shake and tap off excess. Then dip in egg wash and finally in bread crumbs – coating both sides and edges with all steps. Place on collection plate. Repeat until all eggplant is breaded. Tip: Use one hand for wet and one hand for dry so that your hands don’t get caked with breading.
- In a 14” skillet, heat the oil to 350 degrees. (Using a candy thermometer is helpful to ensure you get to the correct temperature.)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Once the oil is hot, fry the eggplant in batches. Fry for 1 ½ minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove to paper towels to drain. Lightly salt each slice as they come out of the hot oil.
- Pour one cup of the tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan or baking dish. Place the five largest slices spread out onto the bottom of the pan over the sauce.
- Sprinkle each slice with a teaspoon of Parmesan and two tablespoons of sauce.
- Divide the sliced Fontina over the tops of each coated slice. Then layer another five eggplant slices on top of the Fontina. Cover each pile with another teaspoon of Parmesan, a two tablespoons of tomato sauce and then cover the tops with the Romano cheese.
- Add the final slice of eggplant on each of the five portions and top with the Parmesan and ¼ cup of tomato sauce.
- Divide the fresh mozzarella slices between the five portions and lay over the top.
- Insert a skewer or a tooth pick (without frills) into the center of each so they don’t slide apart while baking.
- Cover the pan or dish with a sheet of parchment paper that has been sprayed with kitchen pan spray (to stop the cheese from sticking) and a sheet of foil, shiny side facing the food. Seal tight around the edges and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes more. (The shiny side of foil reflects the heat so always put shiny side facing the food.)
- Place under the broiler for a few minutes to brown the tops.
- Cook your pasta according to package directions while eggplant is baking.
- Once the dish is done, let them sit for five minutes to set up. Remove the tooth picks and serve with pasta and the remaining tomato sauce and top with additional Parmesan cheese.
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