Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan
This recipe was born from a desire to keep the eggplant in the classic eggplant Parmesan crispy. It is also a perfect marriage of two much-loved seasonal recipes: a quick and easy cherry tomato sauce and a Parmesan and crumb coated baked eggplant dish. Versatile recipes like these tend to be my go-to recipes for both the great taste and ease of preparation. The sauce can be used in a myriad of ways from pizza to pasta and beyond. The eggplant is delicious straight off the baking sheet and makes a spectacular version of a classic dinner. These recipes can be pulled off for a weeknight meal, especially if you prepare elements like the sauce in advance. Yet they are impressive enough for company.
For the “Deconstructed” Eggplant Parmesan recipe, simply prepare the following easy recipes, adding two extra ingredients: hot cooked pasta and mozzarella cheese. For added ease, prepare the quick sauce in advance. It tastes wonderful when first cooked, and the flavor deepens as the sauce sits overnight.
When cherry tomatoes are plentiful, I adore this quick-cooking chunky sauce on pizza, pasta, roasted eggplant, or by the spoonful! Don’t hesitate to get creative and use it over rice, quinoa, and/or sautéed zucchini. The flavors are even better the second day, so feel free to prepare in advance. If making ahead, sprinkle the basil on just before serving to retain its bright green color.
To make Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan, simply follow the additional directions after the easy sauce recipe, using the Crispy Baked Eggplant in the recipe that follows.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered (2 pints or 1 quart)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
- If making Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan:
- 12-16 ounces fusilli, rotini, penne, or other short spiral or tubular pasta, cooked according to package directions
- 1 recipe Crispy Baked Eggplant (printable recipe follows)
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (may substitute fresh, diced or sliced)
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
- In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute or until fragrant but not turning brown.
- Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and sugar. As the tomatoes cook and soften, mash them with a fork to help them form a chunky, rustic sauce. Cook the tomatoes for approximately 5-6 minutes, or until broken down and slightly thickened.
- If using the sauce for Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan, spoon the sauce over the pasta and then top with the Crispy Baked Eggplant (recipe follows). Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and serve with freshly grated Parmesan, if desired. I often put the plates under the broiler for a minute or so, watching closely, to thoroughly melt the mozzarella.
- Garnish with additional torn basil, if desired.
Choose the amount of pasta based on whether you like your pasta extra saucy or not. I like a high ratio of sauce to pasta so often use the lesser amount of pasta.
Perfect all by themselves or dipped in your favorite marinara sauce, these tasty mouthfuls are best with smaller eggplant and often vanish straight from the baking sheet in our house! If you can save them, they make a perfect topper for a simple “deconstructed” eggplant Parmesan.
- 2 pounds small to medium-size eggplant (about 6 depending on exact size)
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup plain panko breadcrumbs (use Rice Chex crumbs for a gluten-free option)
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Olive oil, for baking sheets
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Thoroughly coat a baking sheet with oil; set aside. (You may need to use two sheets.)
- In a shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and 1 tablespoons water. In another bowl (a pie plate works well), combine panko or Rice Chex crumbs, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
- Cut the eggplants into thick rounds. (I like them to be between 1/2 and 3/4 inches thick so they have time to brown in the oven before they get too soft.) Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture, letting the excess drip off. Dredge the dipped slices in the Parmesan mixture, pushing down gently to coat well. Then transfer slices to the baking sheet.
- Bake until golden brown on the bottom, 17-20 minutes. (Peek underneath using a spatula; if they aren’t yet golden, give them a few more minutes and check again.) Flip the slices and continue baking until lightly browned on other side but still just slightly firm, about 10 minutes more. (All ovens vary a bit, so don’t hesitate to adjust a few minutes either way. You want the first side golden brown; then worry more about doneness and texture than getting the second side equally browned.) Remove from the oven, and serve as is or with a side of marinara sauce for dipping.
Although I began using crushed Rice Chex as a substitute for panko and regular breadcrumbs when needing a gluten-free option, I now prefer them to panko and use the Chex crumbs almost anywhere panko or dry breadcrumbs are required. The texture and flavor are quite good.