I was about 10 years old when I watched the Nightly News for the first time and I cried myself to sleep that night. I felt a similar level of despair when I discovered that Eggplant Parmesan is not a healthy dish. Looking back, I think it must have been willful ignorance, because when someone pulled apart the layers of a restaurant’s eggplant parmesan and showed me the breaded and fried pieces of eggplant, it was pretty hard to miss. As they say, “’Denial’ ain’t just a river in Egypt.” Humph.
I used to find eggplants tricky to cook and it wasn’t until Ottolenghi’s fantastic book Plenty that started purchasing and playing with eggplants in the kitchen again. The technique for cooking the eggplants comes from one of his eggplants recipes. The rest of it is easy enough. If you’re feeling really impatient/pressed for time, you could also buy ready made tomato sauce from the store. If you do that, I really recommend throwing in some fresh garlic and cooking the pre-made sauce down a little bit (I find that premade sauces are very watery!). Also, check the back of the tomato sauce can/jar for the ingredients and make sure there is no added sugar.
The resulting eggplant dish is flavorful and hearty without all the deep fried stuff.
BAKED EGGPLANT PARMESAN
2 EGGPLANTS, halved lengthwise
MOZZARELLA, slice (regular mozzarella, not buffala or burrata)
CUP OF PARMIGANO + SOME FOR SPRINKING
BASIL, minced (for garnish)
SALT TO TASTE
SAUCE (you can also buy premade sauce, see note below)
½ ONION, chopped
1-2 CLOVES OF GARLIC, peeled and minced
1 CARROT, peeled and washed
14.5 OZ CAN OF WHOLE PEELED TOMATOES
1 TABLESPOON TOMATO PASTE
- Heat oven to 425°F.
- Score flesh of halved eggplants lightly with a knife
- Don’t score so deeply that you go through the eggplant’s skin!
- Brush eggplants with olive oil, just enough to coat evenly
- Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the halves
- Set the eggplants in a baking dish with parchment paper, cut side up.
- Roast the eggplants for about 45 minutes.
- While eggplant is roasting, put carrots in a blender and pulse, set aside.
- This is a short cut to cutting the carrots fine, so don’t over puree. You want the carrot to be in small, chunky pieces.
- Heat up olive oil in a pan and add garlic and onion, cook until golden.
- When garlic and onion are golden, add in the pulsed carrot and cook while stirring for about 2-3 minutes.
- Then add the can of tomato sauce, juice included.
- Break up the whole peeled tomatoes into small chunks with your spoon and stir for 1-2 minutes.
- Turn the heat down to low and let the liquid cook off about 10-15 minutes.
- When sauce is thicker, add tomato paste and stir in well. Let the sauce sit and cook on low for another 5 minutes or so. Take the sauce off the heat.
- By now, your eggplants should be close to being done. Remove eggplants from the oven and check that flesh has cooked through.
- When eggplant is cooked, sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over all the halves, then spoon a generous layer of sauce, then add slices of mozzarella on top.
- Put the eggplant back in the oven for 5-10 minutes until mozzarella is completely melted and slightly bubbling.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle extra Parmesan, garnish with basil and serve immediately.
NOTE: If you want the mozzarella to be golden brown, you can put eggplant parmesan until the boiler for 2-3 minutes but remember to watch it like a hawk, cause broilers can be a little nuts.