This eggplant parmesan recipe is a classic for good reasons. You can't go wrong with layers of eggplant, cheese and marinara sauce. Learn how to make this eggplant casserole with this easy tutorial (including a special tip that makes this dish special!) and how-to video.
Do you love eggplant dishes as much as we do? Then make sure to grab our recipes for fried eggplant with tomatoes, melitzanosalata, and our eggplant caponata. They're all easy recipes that you can make at home with just a few ingredients. Eggplant is so underrated and we are here to change it with our delicious recipes. This eggplant parmesan recipe is what I always suggest when readers tell me that they find eggplant to be an intimidating vegetable to work with. It's a delicious dish that's packed with flavors that you know and love.
You know that feeling of comfort you have when you take the first bite of the eggplant parmesan (also called Melanzane alla Parmigiana) that you order at your favorite Italian place? This recipe will give you that feeling in every single bite! With just a few tips and techniques, you can make this classic Italian recipe at home from scratch. I've even included a few shortcuts for those of you in a hurry!
How this is the best eggplant parmesan recipe
I love how hearty eggplant parmesan can be even though it's a vegetarian dish. This is an easy eggplant recipe that is simple enough to be a weeknight dinner but sophisticated enough to be perfect for a dinner party. Whether you call it an Italian eggplant casserole or eggplant parmigiana, this dish is a crowd pleaser and will soon become one of your favorites.
What goes into eggplant parmesan?
You will be surprised by how simple this recipe is. All you need is:
- Italian eggplants: I love using these because they are not too spongy and they're just the right size. However, you can also use graffiti or globe eggplants for this recipe as well.
- Eggs: For frying the eggplant slices.
- Bread crumbs: To coat the eggplant slices before frying them.
- Olive oil
- Marinara sauce: I used store-bought marinara sauce as a quick shortcut. You can also make homemade marinara sauce and use that for this recipe.
- Parmesan cheese: This would give so much flavor to the eggplant. You probably won't need additional salt.
- Mozzarella: That melting, drool worthy cheese-pull comes from a load of mozzarella.
As you can see, this recipe calls for just a few basic ingredients. Therefore, it's important to make sure that every one of these ingredients are delicious, fresh and of good quality.
Do I need to peel the eggplant?
To make eggplant parmesan, you don't need to peel the eggplants because the slices are thin. If you peel the eggplant, it might be hard to fry and transfer them to the dish.
Don't skip this step! Salting the eggplant slices
If there is one thing you want to take away from this eggplant parmesan recipe, let it be this: always salt the eggplant slices before cooking them. Salting the eggplant will make them sweat and bring out what we call "the bitter juice" which are those little beads of sweat that you'll see forming on the eggplant slices after 30 minutes. It also prevents the eggplant to absorb too much oil while frying. It's an extra step, but it's absolutely worth taking if you want to have that delicious dish of cheesy eggplant parmesan just as perfect as it can be.
Pro tip: If you are concerned that the dish would taste too salty because of the salting process, rinse and dry the salted eggplant slices before frying them.
How to make eggplant parmesan
- Wash and dry the eggplant. Cut the head and the end, then slice them into ¼ inch thick slices.
- Place the eggplant slices on a baking sheet and generously sprinkle with salt on both sides. Let them sit for 45 minutes so they "sweat."
- Pat dry the eggplant slices well on both sides. Start a frying station by whisking the eggs in a shallow bowl and placing the breadcrumbs in another bowl.
- Smother the eggplant slices in the eggs and then the breadcrumbs. Then fry them in some olive oil in a pan over medium heat for about five minutes on each side until they are golden. Place the fried slices on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF and start assembling the eggplant parmesan. Spread some marinara sauce at the bottom of an oven safe dish. Place the fried eggplant slices in the dish and add more sauce. Top with parmesan and mozzarella. Repeat the layers until you run out of ingredients.
- Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until the cheese is melted.
Can I bake or grill the eggplants?
I prefer to make fried eggplant parmesan because it always results in a great texture and flavor. However, you can bake or grill the eggplant slices if you want to skip frying. Once you salt the eggplants and pat dry them, dredge them in whisked eggs and breadcrumbs and bake them at 400º for 25 minutes. If you like to grill them, skip the dredging and grill them on medium for about 25 minutes until they're fully cooked. Then proceed with the recipe instructions to assemble and bake the eggplant parmesan.
Notes and tips for making this recipe
- To make sure you're purchasing good eggplants, remember that a good eggplant should feel heavy for it's size and shouldn't be too big (bigger eggplants have more seeds).
- While frying the eggplants, make sure not to overcrowd the pan so all pieces cook evenly.
- Can I skip the breading? Absolutely. If you're not a fan of breaded eggplant parm, simply fry them lightly in some olive oil and proceed with the recipe. Skipping the breading will make this recipe gluten-free as well.
- How to freeze eggplant parmesan: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to three days. To freeze this dish, wrap it in several layers of plastic wrap once completely cool and freeze for up to two months. To serve, thaw in the fridge overnight and heat in the oven at 300ºF for about 30 minutes or until completely heated through.
- Eggplant parmesan can also be made in one single layer. I love adding layers on layers when making this dish, but feel free to only make one layer.
More eggplant recipes to try:
Best Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
- 4 Italian eggplants
- 2 eggs lightly whisked
- 1 ½ cup Italian breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- 16 oz fresh mozzarella sliced
- Wash and dry the eggplants. Slice them into ¼ inch thick pieces.
- Place the eggplant slices on a baking sheet and generously sprinkle with salt on both sides. Let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes. The eggplant slices will start to "sweat".
- After 45 minutes, pat dry the eggplants on both sides. You can also rinse and then dry them.
- In a shallow bowl, whisk the eggs and place the breadcrumbs in another shallow bowl.
- Dredge the eggplant slices in the eggs first and then in the breadcrumbs.
- Heat olive oil in a non stick pan and Fry the eggplants for about 4 minutes on each side until golden and cooked. Place the fried slices on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread about ¼ cup marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking dish.
- Place the eggplant slices in the baking dish to cover the bottom. Top with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese and parmesan. Repeat the layers until you run out of ingredients. The last layer should be cheese.
- Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until the cheese is melted.
- Let eggplant parmesan cool for 15 minutes before slicing it. Top with basil leaves.
- Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Don't skip salting the eggplants. Salting eggplant slices will remove their bitter flavor and they will also absorb less oil when frying.
- You can use homemade or store-bought marinara sauce to make this recipe.