This recipe for Easy Low-Fat Baked Eggplant Parmesan is just that. It's easy, low-fat, because it's baked, not fried, and it's delicious too!
The Making of Easy Low-Fat Baked Eggplant Parmesan
Eggplant Parmesan is a classic dish that I think we all know and some of us love. And some of us don't. The reason I think that maybe you don't love eggplant parmesan is that many recipes call for thinly sliced (¼-inch) eggplant that is breaded, fried in oil, and then after being layered with the sauce and cheese, baked to death. The results are a soggy breaded mushy something in some tomato sauce with stringy cheese. That, my friends, is not my favorite way to prepare or eat eggplant parmesan. So I've done some experimenting and I think I've come up with a very nice rendition of this classic dish that is easy to prepare, lower in fat and calories, and where you can find eggplant in the eggplant parmesan.
HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE
- Eggplant - Globe, also known as Italian Eggplant. Eggplant is available in most markets year-round but it's freshest from July to October.
- 2 eggs - well 1 egg white, and 1 whole egg.
- Italian Seasoned Breadcrumbs - Or you could make your own by mixing panko, or your own homemade bread crumbs, Italian seasonings, salt, and some Parmesan cheese together.
- Mozzarella Cheese - I like using fresh Buffalo mozzarella. But if you want more cheesy strings, use part-skim and grate it.
- Parmesan cheese - Grated. Fresh is always best. You can buy pre-grated, just not the stuff in the green can ok?
- Marinara Sauce - Homemade or your favorite jarred sauce. About 28 ounces of either.
- Olive Oil and Cooking spry - The preferable cooking spray would be olive oil, but most any would work. Check out tips and techniques for more about cooking "sprays".
TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FOR THE BEST SUCCESS
Slice your eggplant thick. About ½ inch thick. This will give it more substance and the ability to hold up in the sauce without turning into a puddle of mush.
If your eggplant is not super fresh, like from your own garden-fresh, then it is best to lightly salt it to draw out some of the moisture. This will also help remove what some consider a bitter flavor often associated with eggplant. REMEMBER eggplant is like a sponge so it absorbs everything. Do not rinse the salt off the slices, simply blot the excess moisture up with a paper towel.
Set-up 3 shallow bowls (or use pie plates) for easy dipping. Be sure to thoroughly coat each slice on both sides. Start with the flour, then the beaten eggs, then the seasoned flour. Remember dry hand in dry ingredients, wet hand in wet ingredients. I'm left-handed so my setup goes from left to right, you may want to set it up going the other way. Use a wire rack to hold the prepared slices until you have all the slices completed.
While you are coating your slices of eggplant, heat your oven to 400ºF (204ºC) and place your lightly oiled cookie sheet in the oven while it heats. The hot cookie sheet will get the bottom of the slices nice and brown. Once hot, carefully remove it and place the eggplant slices on the sheet. Spray the tops with cooking spray. I use a non-aerosol 100% pure olive oil spray I get at Trader Joe's. If you only have a regular canned cooking spray that contains propellants, I recommend you spray the tops of the eggplant prior to putting it on the tray. The propellant will leave a film on your tray that cannot be removed over time.
After 30 minutes of baking in the hot oven, you have firm, crisp, eggplant ready to be sauced.
So start with a nice thin layer of the marina, homemade or jarred. Place 4 slices of the eggplant on top of the sauce then spoon, sauce over the top. Cover each with a slice of buffalo mozzarella, or ⅛th of shredded mozzarella, sprinkle ½ of the grated parmesan over the top then add another layer of eggplant, sauce, and cheese.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for 15 minutes more.
Wait 10 minutes for all to settle, then serve.
CAN EGGPLANT PARMESAN BE FROZEN?
Yes, eggplant parmesan can be frozen. While it will stay for a few days in the refrigerator, it can easily be frozen. I place individual servings in small oven-ready casseroles, then I cover them with foil and freeze They can be re-heated by placing the casserole, with the foil on top; in a 350ºF (176.7ºC) for 30 minutes, uncover, and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until hot throughout. OR you can microwave, foil removed, on high for 5 - 7 minutes, depending on your microwave oven. Do cover the dish with a paper towel or other to avoid oven splatter!
If you don't have any handy dandy orange oven-ready casserole dishes, you can use an individual pie tin (the size for making a pot pie) which can be found in most grocery stores or online. Of course, that takes away the microwave option of reheating.
IS EGGPLANT GOOD FOR YOU?
Yes. It is. Eggplant is very heart-healthy filled with fiber, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-6 as well as being high in antioxidants. It helps control your blood cholesterol. It contains polyphenols which have been shown to help protect the body from cancer. Eggplant has also shown benefits to cognitive function, weight management (at only 25 calories per serving). And with this preparation, baking not frying, it keeps its low-calorie status.
Eggplant is a member of the nightshade family, same as tomatoes, so if you have an allergy to nightshade, this dish is not for you.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST EGGPLANT
- Choose eggplants that feel heavy in your hand. Those are fresh and in good condition.
- The skin should be deeply colored purple and have no blemishes or wrinkles. Those are signs of age and mishandling.
- The eggplant should give slightly when gently pressed. You want it to be firm but not rock hard.
- Choose small to medium-sized eggplant to avoid bitterness. Salting does help with that, but it's best to start with the best.
- Use eggplant within a few days of purchase and store at room temperature.
MORE EGGPLANT PLEASE
Easy Low-Fat Baked Eggplant Parmesan
- 2 eggplants sliced into 8-½ inch rounds (if you have extra save for another use
- 1 egg white and 1 whole egg lightly beaten
- ½ cup all-purpose flour or as needed
- ½ cup Italian Style seasoned bread crumbs
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 ounces whole fresh buffalo mozzarella sliced, or 4 ounces grated part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1 28-ounce jar marinara sauce, or homemade
- ¼ cup fresh basil finely sliced (chiffonade)
- Step 1Heat oven to 400º F. Brush a thin layer of olive oil on the pan and place in the oven to heat.
- Step 2Slice the eggplant into ½ -inch thick slices. If not super fresh, sprinkle with a light layer of salt. Wait 10 minutes. After 10 minutes blot the eggplant with a paper towel to remove any moisture. DO NOT rinse the eggplant.
- Dip each slice first into the flour covering both sides, then dip both sides into the egg wash, and finally into the seasoned bread crumbs. (Remember the wet hand/dry hand approach here.) Lightly brush the top with olive oil. or spray with olive oil cooking spray. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully place the eggplant slices on the preheated baking sheet, bake 30 - 35 minutes or until the eggplant is softened, browned, with a crisp top.
- Step 3Spread a small amount of the marinara evenly over the bottom of a baking dish that is just large enough to hold the eggplant (For 4 servings I used an 8 x 8-inch baking dish) Add a layer of eggplant, spoon sauce over, sprinkle with ½ of the mozzarella and parmesan. Make another layer finishing with the cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes uncover and continue baking for 15 minutes more, or until the cheese is browned and the casserole is hot and bubbly. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Top with basil.