eggplant parmesan melts Recipes

eggplant parmesan melts

A thing I have learned over the last 10 years (!) here is that people have fairly bifurcated opinions of eggplant. Some find it to be the greatest, especially when it is at its most eggplant-y, others don’t care what you do with it, they’re never going to be converted, but even the most eggplant-equivocal agree on one thing: eggplant parmesan is the bee’s knees. I am, however, the one that’s ambivalent about it. To take beautiful coins of eggplant, batter and fry them to a profound and well-seasoned golden crisp just to bury them in texture-killing amounts of sauce and melted cheese feels wrong to me, disrespectful of the labor involved and calories embedded in gloriously deep-fried foods. (I feel the same way about fries smothered in sauces and gravies. Unfollow me now!)

thinly sliced
breading trilogy

All of these concerns go out the window when making a sub, however, which is what we called hoagies/heroes/grinders in my half of New Jersey growing up. The eggplant parm sub is in a way-too-small category of Great Vegetarian Sandwiches*, and I don’t know when they went out of style, but I don’t see them around very often anymore. The eggplant’s texture is less compromised than it gets in casserole form, and so much extra from a seeded roll (it must be seeded; don’t even ask), I find you can even make compromises with the eggplant itself (baking instead of frying breaded eggplant or roasting coins without breading at all) and not feel like you’re missing a thing.


frying somebaking othersbaked and very crispyfried and draining
too little sauce (you'll make more)saucedstackedready to melt

Not that we made any compromises on Friday night. Nope, I did the whole shebang, the panko, the skillet of olive oil, the good bread and it might have been gloriously over-the-top save one thing: the top slice of bread. By doing away with the sub’s ceiling, the sub becomes a blistered, unbelievable and totally unsoggy melt and yet somehow not so heavy that you immediately need a nap. If you have even the smallest smidgen of a doubt over whether you should make these this week, close your browser now because you can’t just have a recipe like this across your screen with friends/family members/roommates around and not expect them to start offering favors in exchange for you to bring it to life.

eggplant parmesan melts

* Can we talk about other Great Vegetarian Sandwiches? This broccoli melt is one of mine, as is this smashed chickpea salad and the ratatouille sub in the first cookbook. But I always need more. What are your unexpected favorites?

Previously

One year ago: Frozen Hot Chocolate
Two years ago: Smoky Eggplant Dip
Three years ago: Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes
Four years ago: My Favorite Brownies
Five years ago: Hazelnut Plum Crumb Tart
Six years ago: Eggplant Salad Toasts
Seven years ago: Grilled Eggplant and Olive Pizza, Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting and Melon Agua Fresca
Eight years ago: Slow-Roasted Tomatoes and Kefta and Zucchini Kebabs
Nine years ago: Smoke-Roasted Stuffed Bell Peppers

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: White Russian
1.5 Years Ago: Spaghetti Pangrattato with Crispy Eggs
2.5 Years Ago: Stuck-Pot Rice with Lentil and Yogurt
3.5 Years Ago: Blood Orange Margaritas
4.5 Years Ago: Double Coconut Muffins

Eggplant Parmesan Melts

  • Servings: 12 small melts, serving 4 to 6
  • Print

You can cook the eggplant one of three ways, all listed below: breaded and fried, breaded and baked, or baked without breading. If without breading, of course skip the flour, eggs and panko-dredging steps.

    Eggplant
  • 2 pounds eggplant (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil, for baking, roasting or frying
  • Sauce
  • 3 1/2 cups prepared sauce or the following ingredients to make your own:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or frying oil)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Pinches of red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, plus more to garnish
  • Assembly
  • About a 1-pound loaf seeded Italian bread or baguette
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 3/4 pounds mozzarella, in thin slices

Cook eggplant: Trim eggplant and cut into 1/4-inch slices.

To bread and bake or fry: Set up three wide, deep bowls on your counter, one with flour, one with the three eggs and one with the breadcrumbs. Season the flour very heavily (at least a teaspoon of kosher salt and many grinds of black pepper) and stir to combine. Beat the eggs until combined. Dip each slice of eggplant in the flour, tapping off excess, then the egg, letting excess drip off, and then the breadcrumbs, packing them on.

To bake breaded eggplant: Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place two racks (such as a metal cooling rack for cookies) over two large baking sheets and brush or spray them with olive oil. Arrange breaded eggplant slices in one layer on racks, season well with salt and pepper, and bake for 20 minutes on first side and 15 on the second, until edges are crisp and eggplant inside is soft. Set aside.

To fry breaded eggplant: Heat a large skillet with 1/2-inch olive oil over medium/medium-high heat. Feeling stingy with the good olive oil? Use half olive oil and half of another good oil for frying, such as sunflower, safflower, vegetable, grapeseed or canola. (Most restaurants do!) Once hot enough that a droplet of water hisses and splatters when added to the oil, fry breaded eggplant, a few slices at a time, until golden underneath, about 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and cook until browned on the second side, 2 to 3 minutes more. Drain on paper towels and immediately, while they’re still very hot, season with salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining slices.

To roast un-breaded eggplant: Brush two large baking sheets with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Arrange eggplant slices in one layer and season well with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully flip each piece: the undersides should be blistery, dark and a bit puffy and should release from the pan with no effort. If they’re not, let it cook longer. Once flipped, sprinkle them with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper and return the pan to the oven for another 10 to 12 minutes or so, until the undersides match the tops.

Meanwhile, make sauce: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Once hot, add garlic and cook for one minute, until faintly golden. Add tomato puree, which is going to sputter and splash, so step back. Season with salt, black pepper, pepper flakes and stir in oregano. Simmer, stirring from time to time, for 15 minutes.

Assemble melts: Heat broiler. Split bread in half and briefly run under broiler, just to lightly toast it so that the sauce doesn’t make it soggy. Split each bread half into 6 smaller toasts and arrange on 1 to 2 large baking sheets that have been lined with foil. Spread a little prepared sauce over each toast and sprinkle with some of the parmesan. Add a few eggplant slices to each, fanning them out. Top with more sauce (to taste, but not so much that eggplant is drenched), parmesan and then place a slice or so off mozzarella over the top of each, enough that when it melts, it should drape down easily. Run trays of melts under the broiler until cheese on top is melted and blistery, 5 minutes in my oven but possibly more or less in yours, so please keep an eye on it. Garnish with additional basil and dig in.

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78 comments on eggplant parmesan melts

  1. Katharine

    YUM! I am always looking for new things to do with eggplant – your charred eggplant salad pasta salad has been a staple in my kitchen since you posted it. I’m even bringing it on a family camping trip this weekend, since my mom is also an eggplant fanatic (and it will hold up well in a cooler).

    My favorite veggie sandwich to make at home is a version of this guy: http://www.neverhomemaker.com/2010/01/veggie-behemoth-lover.html

    I swap things out for what I have around, so it’s a good “clean out the ends of things from your fridge” dish (and don’t we always need more of those too? No? Just me?) and it never fails to satisfy.

  2. Marissa

    One of my favorite vegetarian sandwiches is also from your first cookbook – cucumber avocado. I could eat that all the time.
    I also used to love Brie and apple sandwiches, with mustard. They seem too heavy now that I’m not in college.

  3. MaggieToo

    I’m an eggplant-hater cooking for a tribe of eggplant-lovers, so I guess I’ll have to grudgingly bestow this upon them. With a nice bowl of cool cucumber soup to celebrate summer’s end.

    BTW, the Viennetta cake video featured in your last newsletter was ahhhhsome. Best part: the shot of the garbage can at the end. Who among us wouldn’t dive right in there?

    Let’s make a Viennetta at home, shall we?

  4. There’s a New England sandwich shop chain called D’Angelo’s that does a wonderful vegetarian sandwich, full of things like sauteed peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, and onions, and is topped with melted provolone. I like it with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, pickles and olives. I have started making it in my own kitchen and even Rich enjoys them. When we get grinders (that’s what we call them round these parts) we always get one veggie grinder and one eggplant parm. They hit the spot every time.
    Delighted to see this recipe; I’m an eggplant acolyte.

    1. Returning to scold myself for not remembering the wondrous sandwiches at Strip-T’s in Watertown. (The first comment reminded me of them.) Fried cauliflower, broccoli rabe, provolone, and pickled hot peppers. They also do a Japanese eggplant banh mi with crispy tofu, pickles and cilantro.

  5. kathy w

    When I baked eggplant slices in olive oil (your recipe for eggplant with tomato relish .. yum) it stuck to my sheet pan. Next batch I used a sheet of parchment paper and olive oil and no sticking!

  6. ND

    Looks amazing! We often cheat and buy the pre-breaded frozen eggplant cutlets at Trader Joe’s, bake them, and then use to assemble eggplant parm subs. They aren’t bad for frozen food, but these look so much better.

    My favorite veggie sandwich lately is below. Looks simple but the combo of walnut butter, avocado, fontina, and lemon juice just work wonderfully together to give flavor to the veggies.

    http://www.annies-eats.com/2014/06/25/grilled-summer-veggie-open-faced-sandwiches/

  7. Brianne

    Come up to Boston – you can’t go into a sub/roast beef shop here without finding eggplant parm sub on the menu! Though these look way better than what you usually get. And, I find the cook’s illustrated method of breading, then baking on a preheated, oiled baking sheet to work really well for crisp rounds that aren’t greasy.

        1. deb

          It’s been a few years so I don’t remember everything but we had a little bit of almost everything from the menu (they spoiled us) and it was exceptional. I will not miss it on my next trip.

    1. ellen

      We also found the CI method of baking eggplant on the oiled baking sheet to come out perfectly every time! You can also cook vast amounts on the trays
      that freeze really well for future use:)

    2. FTF

      But have you had a really good eggplant parm sub in Boston? I’ve had probably 25 ranging from awful to decent but nothing outstanding like I would get in North Jersey. If you have faves, please share. (I d d get a recent tip on Emilios in Watertown that I’m planning to try first time tonight. . .)

  8. RobynB

    I can’t wait to try this – it’s very similar to my favorite sandwich at an amazing Italian deli in Santa Cruz, California called Zoccoli’s. What makes theirs even more amazing is the addition of chopped Kalamata and green Greek olives and roasted red peppers in an oil & vinegar dressing, which soaks into the bread a little. They use Provolone but I actually prefer Jack cheese to that or Mozzarella.

    My favorite vegetarian sandwich to make at home is red bell pepper strips, jalapeno strips, and onion strips, kind of like rajas but I also add carrot strips, coated with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted or grilled until soft and charred in places, piled onto a roll with tons of melted cheese. Sometimes I add a little tamari to the olive oil for even more flavor.

  9. I’m 12 weeks pregnant with twins and vegetables (unless they are pickled) are a battle for me but even the regular roasted eggplant sub sounds delicious. Definitely adding this recipe last minute to our dinner menu this week. Maybe twice.

  10. ouryearinindia

    Lord have mercy. I just had lunch, but now I really want to eat this! My unexpected favorite sounds weird and gross, but it’s so good: two slices of toast, peanut butter on one piece and mayo on the other, with very ripe sliced tomatoes in between. I only eat it in late summer because, tomatoes.

    1. Steph

      i’m just chiming in to say: i would try your off-beat sandwich! true, it does sound suspicious, but as someone who has found herself in the bare cupboard predicament with laziness (and at times pennilessness!) standing in the way of going out to procure more appetizing provisions, well, i have concocted many a bizarrely successful sandwich/rice bowl/mush pile myself = )

  11. briarrose1987

    I haven’t properly deconstructed it to make at home yet, but a local “build your own pizza” place has a sandwich that’s herb focaccia with white sauce, a good scoop of olive tampenade, chopped roasted veggies (this was a lightbulb moment for me; they stay in the sandwich!), red onion, and mozzarella and then they send it for a spin in the brick oven to get all melty and crunchy. Definitely top 5 veggie sandwiches for me. As for eggplant parm subs, that’s diner food here in WNY. I think I’m going to be making your version at home soon, though. Eggplant is one of the things my MIL always says “but he never ate that when I cooked it!” about and I love it.

  12. Steph

    Nothing earth-shattering here, but adding a few chopped green olives to an egg salad takes the sandwich to another level. The briny component is a really welcome flavor punch. ‘Egg & olive’ sandwiches are the bomb! My latest twist on avocado toast: mash up a bunch of tofu with the ‘cado for a cool, fluffier spread consistency (and adds a little protein boost). Assuming you’ve tried the most flavorful eastern euro roasted red pepper [sandwich] spread: ajvar.

    1. deb

      My husband and I got the one from Taim after reading this in the spring and almost died after eating it. It was so over-the-top. And I just made eggplant parmesan melts; I’m hardly a pearl-clutcher over calories! Are they always that insane?

  13. Katie Meadow

    Deb, always a fan. Speaking of vegetarian sandwiches and speaking of eggplant, have you ever had a Sabich? Pronounced Sabiq, it’s an Israeli Iraqi mash up and it is generally agreed that even though it is street food, it’s way better made at home with just out-of-the-pan eggplant. It has many of the same ingredients as a Falafel sandwich, but a couple of life changing twists. Besides the tomato and cucumber salad and a tahini dressing, it consists of a layer of pan-fried eggplant, a swoosh of Amba (mango pickle), slices of hardboiled egg (I skip that but my husband likes it). And to top it off nothing beats a little zhoug–a mid-east green hot sauce; all packed in a pita, preferably a toasted one with a bit of char on the outside. Very very addictive!

      1. Katie Meadow

        No idea where to get one. I think there are a couple of places in NY that make a Sabich, but I’m in CA. I just make them myself. I like to heat the pita bread on a cast iron comal. All the parts are easy to make except for the mango pickle, or the Amba, which I think is the Israeli term. I’ve tried several, and my favorite by far is National brand Mango Pickle in Oil from Pakistan. Very cheap, maybe not so easy to source.

  14. Liz

    Eggplant parm is my favorite and I LOVE this idea without the bread top!!! Inevitably, the contents all squish out when biting into one with the top on. Making these immediately — well, will probably wait until dinner since it’s only 6:24am. ; )

  15. Diane

    I’ve been cooking eggplant rounds both breaded and non- breaded on my George Forman grill for years – quick and easy – a panini maker would work as well

  16. Bethan

    My local (now defunct) de facto brunch spot used to do an amazing veggie sandwich: pesto, oven roasted mushrooms and tomatoes, pan fried halluomi, humus. So good! Might have to make them this weekend now . . .

  17. I’m not the best person to ask about great vegetarian sandwiches, because I often forget sandwiches exist. But I love a baguette spread with brie and topped with figs and arugula, and in the cold winter I don’t think there’s anything better than a good grilled cheese.

    I love eggplant, but eggplant parm usually buries the things that I love about eggplant (that deep, meaty flavor, the way it melts once it’s cooked) in a soggy casserole that’s somehow both watery and oily at the same time. I’m so glad I can count on you to fix all of these little food injustices.

  18. Jennifer

    I too wish eggplant parm subs were more widely available. There’s a local DC place, Bub and Pop’s (bubandpops.com, I have no affiliation) that has an ok eggplant sub, but their vegetarian sandwich glory is the Bulgarian feta (Sheep’s Milk Feta, Arugula, Eggplant Caponata, Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Caramelized Onion, Caramelized Mushrooms, Grilled Zucchini, Grilled Fennel, Balsamic Vin Cotto, Hazelnut Gremolata, and Pecorino Romano). They make their own potato chips too! I also loved in Spain that a lot of tapas bars at bus terminals, airports, etc. would offer a slab of the tortilla espanola on delicious crusty bread.

  19. Abby

    Philadelphian checking in: Eggplant parm is a grinder, not a hoagie, because it is a hot sandwich.

    We take our sandwich names very seriously in this part of the East Coast.

  20. jo

    I am making the breaded egg plant (known as aubergine here in the UK) right now, and the only problem is that they were so delicious when I tasted one, that I may not have enough left. Thanks!

  21. Emily Connelly

    Tandem Bakery in Portland Maine has the best vegetarian sandwiches – I think it’s in large part due to the amazing focaccia, but Briana is a genius. My favorite has cheese, pickled veggies (changes based on the season), cilantro, hard boiled eggs, and exciting mayo. I don’t get to eat it often enough, but it’s amaaaazing!

  22. sparkgrrl658

    the eggplant parm is on every pizza/sub shop menu here (boston area), and for reasons still unknown to me also my dad’s specialty – the only thing he knew how to cook when he was in college & first out on his own. (who only knows how to make something like eggplant parm? i don’t know, but to this day it’s still pretty dang good :))

    i grew up in RI and have lived in the boston area for fifteen years now, everything in both places is subs…except if it’s meatball, then it’s a grinder. i have no idea why. (you could order a meatball sub too, but i’ve never heard grinder used with anything other than meatball.) also, when i was living on the south shore awhile back, there was one place that had awesome subs, called spuckies. had never heard it before or since, but i guess at one point it was A Thing around here.

    anyway, eggplant parm always gives me those fond nostalgic food feels. i’m totally on board with this version!

  23. Erika

    Best vegetarian sandwich ever is the Farmer’s Lunch from City Feed & Supply in Jamaica Plain (Boston). It is what happens when a British ploughman sandwich comes to New England. According to their menu, it is: New England extra sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, sliced granny smith apple, City Feed pickled green tomato, locally-made grain mustard, red leaf letuce, on an Iggy’s baguette

  24. Karen

    I’m excited to try this after a disappointing baked version from Cooks Illustrated. As for other veggie sandwiches, (besides yours!), I’ve enjoyed several of the ones from the Thug Kitchen cookbook including the black bean tortas and the savory tempeh and carrot sandwiches.

  25. Leah

    Hey Deb,
    How long do you think the fried eggplant would last in the fridge, if we wanted to make a few meals out of this? Thank you!

    1. deb

      It’s going to be hard for it to stay crisp long. More so if fried and lightly wrapped but it will get soft regardless, just perhaps more slowly.

  26. R.

    Do you have any experience with eggplant becoming bitter? Many online sources say to sweat the slices before breading and frying. I have made this dish before and it has been delicious and another time when it was bitter and unpalatable. I’m not sure what I did differently.

    1. deb

      Some eggplants — like some people, bah! — are just more bitter than others. Many people find salting eggplant to combat this. You can do so here before breading if you wish.

  27. Sara

    The Owl House in Rochester used to have an AMAZING vegan banh mi made with house-smoked tofu. I cried a little when they took it of the menu … and I’m not even vegan. :*(

  28. Anjali

    My go-to veggie sandwich is caramelized zucchini jam (via food52), avocado, & a spritz of lemon juice on toasted sandwich bread. Veggies rock!

  29. Robin

    Simple sandwiches are my favourite – good bread, mayo, good summer tomatoes, salt and pepper, open faced. Possibly sliced hard cheese and basil but with good tomatoes and bread I hardly want to mess with it. Or avocado toast with lemon, salt and pepper. Or buttered toast with smashed boiled eggs, salt and pepper.

    That said, I do find myself going back to good bread, mayo, sliced medium tofu drizzled with soy and lime, cilantro and cucumber slices. So good and no cooking involved. Avocado is good on this one too.

  30. Ruth

    Dear Deb, I THINK I read that we should report problems with your newly upgraded site here, under Questions. Forgive me if I am wrong.
    On my iphone, I have to manually go to your website to see the complete post. On the feed to which I subscribed many years ago, I see “Read the rest of >>>” which links nowhere. Below I see “” and below that “Read the Rest of More Recent Articles>>>”. This will actually take me to the current recipe. I so appreciate the time, brain cells and buckets of money you have invested in this upgrade. I appreciate the larger type face. I’ll get over the ads. But I am very sure you want it to function properly. Thank you for many years of pleasurable reading, and a boatload of foolproof, delicious, crowd-pleasing recipes!

    1. deb

      Thanks, I can’t figure out why it is happening but I promise to fix it whenever I do. Glad you’re enjoying the new site. FWIW, there are the same number of ads on this design as there were on the old. (The ads in the newsletter you get, however, are awful and have nothing to do with me. We don’t place them or earn from them.)

  31. sbc

    A perennial favorite in my house:

    Take the liquid from a jar of sun-dried tomatoes (if you add more oil to the tomatoes in the jar, it will re-infuse) and add some hot sauce. Toss cauliflower florets in it and roast them.

    Serve on a roll with sun-dried tomatoes, greens (cooked are good; raw arugala or spinach work too) and whatever else you like. Garlic spread (toum) is good on it. Slivers of parmesan-ish cheese would probably be good on it. And I bet some sausage would be ok too if you didn’t want it vegetarian.

  32. sylvia :)

    looks great :) a few questions:
    1. i would like to make enough sauce only for this recipe and i feel that 3/1/2 cups is too much? how much would b enough only for this dish?
    2. and could i use challah instead? :)
    thank u!

  33. Jillian

    My favorite veggie sandwich was on the Winter menu at Taylor Gourmet here in DC (and I found the ingredients list online, to make sure I did it justice): crispy brussel sprouts, green onion aioli, pickled daikon & carrots, toasted cashews, spicy “BANG BANG” sauce [pretty sure that involved sriracha] and fresh cilantro and mint. It was funky and fish-sauce-y and delicious and stunk up my whole office.

  34. Pallavi

    This recipe looks amazing – I completely agree with the essential nature of a seeded bread/roll to elevate the eggplant parm.

    Favorite vegetarian/vegan sandwich here in Philadelphia: the tofu hoagie (really tofu banh-mi) at Fu-Wah mini-market in West Philly: marinated mildly spicy tofu, daikon, cilantro, fresh (hot!) jalapeños, pickled carrot, mayonnaise spread, on toasted roll.

  35. So my favorite homemade sandwich is a roasted red pepper, goat cheese sandwich on a crispy sourdough english muffin with your pickled sandwich slaw. HOWEVER, you must roast the peppers yourself and store them in balsamic vinegar in the fridge.

    Kinda like this:
    http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017353-roasted-pepper-and-goat-cheese-sandwich

    My favorite restaurant sandwich is a truffle egg salad sandwich from Local Foods. Haven’t figured out exactly how to recreate it- hint hint. If you’re ever in Houston, you must try it!