Last year I told you that despite it being the opposite of eggplant season, I crave eggplant parmesan incessantly each winter. I mean, who doesn’t want an aromatic, cheese-stretchy, cozy casserole of ziti-like flavors, but without the heaviness of the pasta sometimes, right? What this post omitted was my recipe, which was kind of rude. The truth is that I wasn’t completely comfortable sharing the recipe because it’s not a True eggplant parmesan, or so I believed. It’s not breaded, it’s not fried, and there’s definitely no ricotta. Even the title of the recipe as it was saved on my computer was self-conscious: (Not Really) Eggplant Parmesan.
So what changed? Going to Italy this summer! We ordered eggplant parmesan (parmigiana di melanzane) almost every time we saw it on the menu and do you know what would come out? A dish that looked like this — no breading, no crumbs, no ricotta. It made more sense when I read about the history of the dish from Emiko Davies which I’ll simply link to rather than poorly summarize (it’s fascinating!) but it also gave me the nudge to finally spring the recipe from my kitchen to yours.
I think it’s heavenly: Thick slices of fresh eggplant are salted, dabbed dry, and roasted in a generous application of olive oil at high heat until deeply brown on both sides — i.e. almost like fried but without the oil splatters and spread of paper towels to drain the grease. While they roast, you make a simple tomato sauce on the stove with onion, garlic, and pepper flakes softened in olive oil. You fan the slices of eggplant in a dish with sauce under and over them, cover it with a heap of mozzarella and parmesan, and bake it until blistered, cozy, and absolutely spoonable, with stretches of cheese trying to drag each spoonful back to the pan. Spoiler: It will fail; you will win.
Today: Hey NYC, what are you doing tonight? I’ll be chatting with Leah Koenig this evening in celebration of the launch of her fantastic cookbook, Portico, at Powerhouse at the Archway at 7pm. Some tickets remain — they could be yours! The Events page is currently quite empty but keep an eye on it — a lot more is coming this fall, soon to be announced!
The Smitten Kitchen Classroom Wishlist Project 2023 It’s the first day of school in NYC (hooray!) and the Classroom Wishlist Project continues. In the US, a tremendous number of teachers don’t get the funding they need to set their classrooms up for success. Most will end up paying out of their own pockets to buy educational materials, which feels all wrong and makes me sad. I’ve asked teachers to send me their wishlists in hopes that we can help clear as many as possible, as we did last summer. Help out if you feel you’re able — you will unquestionably make a teacher’s (and their students’) day! [Project information. Direct link to spreadsheet.]
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1 year ago: Eggplant Involtini
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3 years ago: Shaved Fennel and Crushed Olive Salad and Corn Coconut Soup
4 years ago: Salted Caramel Pretzel Blondies
5 years ago: Foolproof Cacio e Pepe
6 years ago: Cheesecake Bars with All The Berries and Corn Chowder with Chile, Lime, and Cotija
7 years ago: Eggplant Parmesan Melts and Even More Perfect Blueberry Muffins
8 years ago: Angel Hair Pasta with Raw Tomato Sauce, Crispy Peach Cobbler, and Corn Chowder Salad
9 years ago: Strawberries and Cream with Graham Crumbles and Corn Cheddar and Scallion Strata
10 years ago: Almond-Crisped Peaches, Key Lime Popsicles and Zucchini Parmesan Crisps
11 years ago: Mediterranean Baked Feta with Tomatoes, Leek, Chard, and Corn Flatbread and Vanilla Custards with Roasted Blueberries
12 years ago: Hazelnut Plum-Crumb Tart, Zucchini Fritters, and Naked Tomato Sauce
13 years ago: Eggplant Salad Toasts and Peach Shortbread
14 years ago: Griled Eggplant and Olive Pizza and Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting
15 years ago: Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Kefta and Zucchini Kebabs and Dimply Plum Cake
16 years ago: Double Chocolate Torte and Spicy Soba Noodles with Shiitakes
17 years ago: Moules Frites and 44-Clove Garlic Soup
Simple Eggplant Parmesan
- 2 pounds eggplant, cut into generous 1/2-inch slices
- Kosher salt
- Olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 8 ounces grated or thinly-sliced mozzarella
Heat oven: To 425°F (220°C) degrees.
Roast eggplant: Transfer eggplant slices to paper towels and blot them of as much excess water as possible. Dry the baking sheet, too, and coat it with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle the oil with several grinds of black pepper. Arrange eggplant slices in one layer. Drizzle with 2 more tablespoons of oil and more grinds of black pepper. Roast until nicely browned underneath, 20 to 25 minutes. Use a thin spatula to turn eggplant slices over and roast until browned underneath on the second side, another 10 minutes. It’s okay if they’re not cooked through yet. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F (175°C).
Meanwhile, make sauce: While eggplant roasts, open your can of tomatoes and use kitchen shears or very well-washed scissors to chop the tomatoes into small bits. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium/large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add onion and cook until it softens, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes and cook another minute. Add tomatoes (beware the splatter!), oregano, and season with 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste. Let mixture simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you’d like the sauce smoother than it is now, you can mash the tomatoes further with a potato masher as it cooks, or use an immersion blender for a completely smooth sauce. Stir in basil then taste the sauce; adjust salt and pepper to taste.
Assemble: In a 1.5- to 2-quart baking dish (holding 6 to 8 cups; I’m using this), spoon about 1/2 cup of the sauce. Arrange about half of the eggplant slices, slightly overlapped, in one layer. Spoon another 1/2 cup sauce over and spread it evenly. Arrange remaining eggplant slices, then ladle more sauce over it so it’s as saucy as you like. [Keep unused sauce in fridge for another day; it will keep for 4 to 5 days.] Sprinkle top with mozzarella and parmesan.
Bake: For 30 minutes, until cheese has melted and sauce is bubbling all over. For more color on top, you can run it briefly under your oven’s broiler.
To serve: Once baked, let the eggplant parmesan rest at room temperature, if you can bear it, for 15 minutes before digging in — this helps the ingredients settle and come together more. It’s not mandatory, but this is excellent with a side of garlic bread.
Do ahead: Eggplant parmesan keeps fantastically in the fridge for up to 5 days. Rewarm in a 350-degree oven, covered for the first half of the time, for about 25 to 30 minutes. You can also freeze it, well wrapped, for a few months.