Eggplant Parmesan Stacks

Eggplant Parmesan stacks with spaghetti.
Eggplant Parmesan stacks with spaghetti.

I’ve made eggplant Parmesan several different ways, but I think these “stacks” are the best. Although I eat pretty healthy food most of the time, I don’t really care for eggplant unless it’s fried. Let’s face it–it’s just better that way. (Though I’m not opposed to trying it other ways; if you’ve got a recipe that you think will change my mind, send it my way!)

Cooking this dish will make a mess out of your kitchen. It will take some time. It will not be healthy. But I can promise that it will taste delicious.

Eggplant Parmesan

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs seasoned with Italian seasoning)
  • 2-3 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 6 oz fresh mozzarella, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, to taste
  • 1 28-oz jar of tomato sauce (I like Trader Joe’s Roasted Garlic Marinara)
  • 4-5 servings of spaghetti

 

Steps

  1. Prepare the eggplant. Clean the outside thoroughly and slice it into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. You can peel the eggplant first if you want to, but it’s not necessary.
    Remove the stem, blossom end and any bruised or damaged pieces before slicing.
    Remove the stem, blossom end and any bruised or damaged pieces before slicing.

    Eggplant is a watery vegetable, so you need to sweat out that excess moisture through a process known as degorging. (Some cooks say you do this because the eggplant has a bitter taste. Personally I’ve never found it to be bitter. I do it because I hate soggy eggplant!)

    After you’ve sliced the eggplant, salt both sides of each slice and place them in a colander over a bowl or in the sink. Let sit for about half an hour to draw out the moisture.

    Salt each side of the eggplant slices and rub the salt into the flesh.
    Salt each side of the eggplant slices and rub the salt into the flesh.
  2. While the eggplant is sweating, preheat the oven to 375F and prepare the rest of your ingredients. Cut the mozzarella into small pieces. (You can use shredded or deli-sliced mozzarella, but it’s so much better with fresh!)
    Cut the mozzarella into pieces.
    Cut the mozzarella into pieces.

    Prepare three shallow dishes with the breading ingredients: one with flour, seasoned with pepper and Italian seasoning; one with the eggs, also seasoned; and one with the breadcrumbs mixed with 2-3 tbsp of grated Parmesan cheese.

    I seasoned each stage of the breading. The flour had pepper, Italian seasoning and just a touch of salt; the eggs had pepper and Italian seasoning; and the pre-seasoned breadcrumbs got a bit of Parmesan cheese mixed in.
    I seasoned each stage of the breading. The flour had pepper, Italian seasoning and just a touch of salt; the eggs had pepper and Italian seasoning; and the pre-seasoned breadcrumbs got a bit of Parmesan cheese mixed in.
  3. You can also set up  your cooking station. Put a large pot of salted water on the stove for the pasta. Pour your sauce into a saucepan. Place a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) on the stove, and place a plate with a double layer of paper towels nearby.

    Prep your cook station. Pictured: plate with paper towels, pasta pot, cast iron frying pan, sauce pan.
    Prep your cook station. Pictured: plate with paper towels, pasta pot, cast iron frying pan, sauce pan. Ignore the extra cast iron pans and the tea kettle; we keep a lot of things on our stove.
  4. After the eggplant has been sitting for a while, you’ll see beads of moisture forming on the surface. Rinse the slices thoroughly under cool water to remove the excess salt. Spread a double layer of paper towels on a cookie sheet and place the eggplant slices on top.
    Spread the eggplant in a single layer on the paper towels.
    Spread the eggplant in a single layer on the paper towels.

    Spread a second layer of paper towels over the eggplant and press down to squeeze out the water.

    Cover with another layer of paper towels and press down.
    Cover with another layer of paper towels and press down.

    Roll the whole stack up and press down. Repeat as needed until all the eggplant has been squeezed dry.

    Roll the eggplant up and press down on the whole bundle.
    Roll the eggplant up and press down on the whole bundle.
  5. Bread the eggplant. Dip each slice in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs.
    Coat each slice first in flour...
    Coat each slice first in flour…
    ...followed by a quick dip in the egg...
    …followed by a quick dip in the egg…
    ...then a final coating of breadcrumbs.
    …then a final coating of breadcrumbs.

    Place the breaded slices on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet. The rack will keep them from getting soggy before you cook them.

    Place the breaded slices on cooling racks to keep them from getting soggy.
    Place the breaded slices on cooling racks to keep them from getting soggy.
  6. When all the eggplant has been breaded, it’s time to cook! Start heating the water and turn the sauce burner to low. Heat the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. It’s ready when a bit of bread or a crumb of eggplant breading sizzles when you toss it into the pan.
  7. Fry the eggplant in the oil, just two or three slices at a time. Use tongs to turn the pieces over.
    Fry the eggplant until golden brown on both sides.
    Fry the eggplant until golden brown on both sides.

    When they are cooked, remove them to the prepared plate with paper towels. Add additional towels and create layers as needed.

    Place on paper towels to drain.
    Place on paper towels to drain.
  8. When all the eggplant has been fried, assemble the towers. On a foil-lined cookie sheet, place a single layer of eggplant. (I had 15 pieces, so I made five three-slice towers.) Top each with some mozzarella and a bit of Parmesan.
    Place the first layer of eggplant on a cookie sheet and top with mozzarella...
    Place the first layer of eggplant on a cookie sheet and top with mozzarella…
    ...and then Parmesan.
    …and then Parmesan.

    Add two more layers of eggplant and cheese. Place the cookie sheet in the oven.

    An eggplant stack ready for the oven.
    An eggplant stack ready for the oven.
  9. At this point, the water should be boiling. Add the spaghetti to the pot and cook for about 9 minutes, following the package instructions. Drain the pasta.
  10. Once the pasta is done, check the eggplant. It’s done if the eggplant is hot and crispy and the cheese is melted.

    Bake until the eggplant is hot and crispy, and the cheese has melted. You can place the stacks under the broiler for the last few minutes for a browned top.
    Bake until the eggplant is hot and crispy, and the cheese has melted. You can place the stacks under the broiler for the last few minutes for a browned top.
  11. Serve each eggplant stack with a serving of spaghetti and tomato sauce over top. Mangia!

    Plate each stack with a serving of spaghetti and spoon tomato sauce over everything.
    Plate each stack with a serving of spaghetti and spoon tomato sauce over everything.

Eggplant Parm takes some time and love, but it’s all worth it in the end!

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