For many of us, eggplant has at some point been more of a nightmare, and if not that, then rarely a craving. Last year, my farm-share box required me to get over it already. And now, now my mind wanders, wondering when those big purple beauties will show up this year. Yes, I’m feeling very grown up indeed.
So, if you’re up for passing a milestone, here’s how to face those fears: eggplant Parmesan. And like any dish you make with a tomato pasta sauce, it is different every time. I make whatever type of tomato sauce I’m in the mood for, but experience has led me to believe a lighter sauce is better. Loading it up with sausage and peppers makes the dish a wee bit overwhelming. There’s already a lot going on.
Mario Batali’s trick is to bake rather than fry the eggplant. I happily follow. Slice your eggplant into ½-1 inch thick rounds. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and then bake at 450 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Let them cool enough to handle and then this becomes a layering job. I’m the kind of cook who enjoys the bounty. I mean, why use half an onion when you can use a whole one. I take every recipe and essentially double all my favorite ingredients. This may be one of the guiding principles of my general ethos. I’m just saying.
Using a glass baking dish, spread a layer of sauce and then six (or so) of your largest eggplant rounds. Next comes a slice of fresh mozzarella to each, a slice of mortadella if desired, a basil leaf, and another layer of sauce. Repeat until you’ve got six beautiful towers with their moats of sauce. Cover the whole thing in grated Parmesan and bread crumbs, and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Then toast to your adulthood with a nice Italian and start dreaming of those leftovers.