I need you to do me a favor.
I know it’s early to be asking you for stuff already, but you’re nice and I like you and I hope you’ll help me out.
Please mark this recipe and make it again this summer when the fresh tomatoes are ripe and really prime. You can thank me later.
I had some terrible tomato vegetable soup last week in a restaurant.
It tasted like it was made from leftover marinara sauce intended for something else, mixed with a little broth or maybe water, and some unrecognizable vegetables – so overcooked.
I ate it anyway, and it was gag-alicious.
I shouldn’t complain, because it warmed me up and that should count for something.
It got me thinking about how easy it is to make so many different recipes using a fresh, homemade tomato sauce as the base.
Recipes like baked eggplant parmesan, for example. Not your mother’s version, either.
There is no heavy dredging, deep frying, or smothering of cheese products.
This baby is coated with panko breadcrumbs, smeared with a fresh herb-spiked ricotta cheese, and baked in the oven.
We make our own chunky tomato sauce, which is really no trouble at all, and so worth it for flavor and overall deliciousness. I was going to say “succulence.”
The eggplant gets all snuggled up in the tomato sauce and mingles with the cheese and herbs. It gets a little crispy on the edges, too, which is awesome.
All you need is a side of spaghetti noodles if you’d like, drizzled with olive oil.
- Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper brushed with olive oil.
- Prepare a 9 x 13" baking dish by brushing the bottom and sides with olive oil.
- Olive oil (for baking sheets and baking dish as above)
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus 3 more tablespoons for topping
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- Salt and pepper
- 2 1/2 pounds eggplants (about 4 medium), peeled and sliced into 1/2 rounds
- 6 cups (48 ounces) chunky tomato sauce - store bought or recipe follows
- 8 ounces light ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 generous tablespoon fresh basil
- 1 generous tablespoon Italian (flat leaf) parsley, plus more for topping
- Salt and pepper
- 1 1/2 cups shredded fresh mozzarella cheese *OPTIONAL: Note that I didn't use mozzarella cheese in this recipe, but you can add it if you'd like for extra cheesiness.
- FOR TOMATO SAUCE
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small shallot, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes, cut into rough 1" chunks
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- PREPARE THE PANS AND BAKING DISH AS ABOVE
- PREPARE THE EGGPLANT SLICES
- In a wide shallow bowl or pie dish, whisk the eggs together with 2 tablespoons of water.
- In another shallow bowl or pie dish, combine the breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup of Parmesan, the dried parsley and basil and some salt and pepper.
- Dip the eggplant slices in the egg mixture, then dredge in the breadcrumb mixture.
- Place slices on baking sheets and bake until golden brown on the bottom, about 25 minutes, turn the eggplant slices and continue baking till brown and crispy on the other side, about 25 more minutes.
- Remove from oven and raise oven temperature to 400 degrees.
- MAKE THE TOMATO SAUCE
- In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat and cook the shallot and garlic, stirring with a wooden spoon frequently until soft, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and tomato paste to the pan and simmer on medium high heat stirring occasionally until thickened, about 30 minutes.
- PREPARE THE RICOTTA MIXTURE
- In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta cheese with the large egg, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil and parsley.
- PREPARE THE FINAL DISH
- Spread 2 cups of tomato sauce in the 9 x 13" baking dish. Arrange half the eggplant in the dish and top with half the ricotta mixture, cover with more tomato sauce and about 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, if using.
- Repeat with remaining eggplant, sauce, ricotta and mozzarella (if using) Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese over the top and bake until cheese is melted, about 20-25 minutes.
- Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.
Adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday