Italian, when done right, can be one of the quickest but heartiest weeknight vegetarian dinners.
While the pan fry technically takes a little bit of time, my Eggplant Parmesan comes together so beautifully that you’ll hardly mind.
And boiling the pasta takes mere minutes. If you’re really in a rush, use your favorite jarred marinera sauce. I like the idea of a quick and simple side-like pasta and sauce- when you’re taking a little more time to make the star of the dish, in this case, the eggplant.
So let’s discuss. Eggplant is not something I ever use in recipes to be honest. It’s pretty bland which makes it the perfect vessel to doll up with my homemade seasoned breadcrumbs. I like to wash then peel my eggplant because the skin can sometimes toughen up too much when cooked. Just soft on the inside crunchy on the outside eggplant in my house, thank you.
So once you cut both ends off your eggplant (I used two in this recipe and it fed 6 of use just fine), you cut it into about quarter-inch thick slices.
Now let’s talk dredge. I like to do a simple 3-plate dredging station- one plate flour (seasoned heavily with salt and pepper), one plate (or bowl) of 3 eggs whisked in a little bit of water (basically an egg wash) and a third plate for the bread crumbs.
I like to use plain breadcrumbs here (regular or Panko, whatever you have in the pantry) and spice it up myself with red pepper flakes, dried basil, dried thyme, dried oregano and salt and pepper. It’s fresher this way and you can store it pre-seasoned and use it for your next meal! I also love to sprinkle my seasoned breadcrumbs on top of my homemade Mac n’ cheese or use it on my Caesar salads. Make extra and keep it on hand in the pantry and trust me you’ll find delicious uses! Of course if you add the Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs like I do, store it in the fridge instead.
Now you’re ready to fry it up! And if you finish with the dredge and you feel like you’ve got enough, store the breaded eggplant (before the frying step!) in an airtight bag in the freezer and then cook them off whenever you need an even faster weeknight meal!
- 2 large eggplant
- Plain breadcrumbs
- Dried red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, thyme
- Vegetable Oil (Olive Oil has a low burn point and is not a good choice for frying)
- Parmesan Cheese (for mixing into the breadcrumbs and/or sprinkling on top of the fried eggplant-I like to do both!)
- Your favorite pasta (I used Linguine)
- Your favorite marinera sauce (I’d love to share my homemade recipe for marinera here but I’m Italian and therefore contractually obligated not to disclose such things)
- Preheat your oven to 170 degrees;
- Begin by arranging your dredging station: 1 plate with 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper: whisk to combine. Next, in a small bowl crack and whisk 3 eggs in 2 tablespoons water. Lastly, put 2-3 cups plain breadcrumbs, 1 1/2 teaspoons each of red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like it on the spicy side), dried basil, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper and whisk to combine; I also add about 1 cup of shredded Parmegiano Reggiano to my breadcrumbs here.
- Cut the ends off your eggplant and peel the skin; cut into rounds about 1/4 inch thick. Set aside;
- In a shallow non-stick pan, heat 1 1/2 inches of vegetable or canola oil over medium heat; it’s ready to fry if when you drop a breadcrumb in it starts to bubble/sizzle;
- Now take one piece of the sliced eggplant and flip it in the flour to coat: next submerge in the egg bowl and let excess drip off then dip in the breadcrumb mixture until coated;
- Gently place breaded eggplant into hot oil (4 at a time) and cook for 3-4 minutes each side until golden brown. Repeat for all of your slices;
- When you take the fried eggplant out of the oil, place onto a cookie sheet in a single layer, sprinkle with more shredded Parmeggiano Reggiano (about 2 tablespoons each) and put in the 170 degree oven to stay warm while you fry up the rest;
- With the fried egggplant warming in the oven, boil and cook off your desired pasta to package directions and heat your favorite marinera;
- To assemble: place the pasta on the plate and drizzle with desired marinera sauce: top with 3 slices of the fried eggplant and drizzle with more sauce. Serve extra marinera on the side for dipping and enjoy!