The true way to make eggplant Parmesan, according to those with grandmother’s from the Old Country, is to use Pecorino Romano cheese—Parmesan’s sheepier, saltier cousin. Mozzarella is traditionally forbidden, but, because mozzarella cheese is so stretchy and excellent, this recipe includes it in two forms. Restaurant-style eggplant Parm is this-a-way.
Makes 1 (9 × 13-inch/3.5 L) casserole
4 medium eggplants
2 tablespoons (30 mL) salt, divided, more for seasoning
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
Olive oil, for frying
2 cups (500 mL) shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1 cup (250 mL) shredded mozzarella
2½ to 3 cups (625 to 750 mL) good-quality marinara sauce, divided
1 ball buffalo mozzarella (approximately ½ cup/125 mL)
Small handful of fresh basil (approximately ½ cup/125 mL)
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a large baking sheet with a few layers of paper towel.
Cut 2 eggplants, lengthwise, into ½-inch (1 cm) slices. Cut 2 eggplants, crosswise, into ½-inch (1 cm) slices.
Crack the eggs into a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the salt and whisk to combine. Place the flour in a second medium bowl. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 mL) salt and whisk to combine.
Set a large cast-iron or stainless steel skillet over medium-high heat. Pour olive oil into the skillet to a depth of about ½ inch (1 cm). Once the oil begins to shimmer, begin frying the eggplant in batches: toss a few eggplant slices (or enough to fill the skillet) in the flour mixture. Shake off the excess before dipping each slice in the egg mixture. Fry until golden brown on each side, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Place the cooked eggplant on the prepared baking sheet to drain. Repeat with the remaining eggplant. Once you’ve fried all of the eggplant slices, season with salt, to taste.
In a small bowl, combine the shredded Pecorino and shredded mozzarella cheese. Spread about ½cup (125 mL) of the marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9- × 13-inch baking dish. Arrange eggplant rounds in a single layer in the bottom of the baking dish. Top with ½cup (125 mL) of the marinara sauce and about 1 cup (250 mL) of the cheese mixture. For the next layer, use the long eggplant shapes (alternating between round and long slices will help with structural integrity!), then top with ½cup (125 mL) of the marinara sauce and 1 cup (250 mL) of the cheese mixture.
Continue to layer the eggplant with the sauce and the cheese mixture (do not put any of the cheese mixture on top), adding 2 more layers and making sure to alternate between round and long slices. Bake for 45 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling and the eggplant is tender. Turn off the oven but keep it closed to hold the heat.
Slice the buffalo mozzarella into ½-inch (1 cm) slices and arrange them in a single layer on top of the casserole. Return the casserole to the hot oven for 5 minutes, or until the buffalo mozzarella is melted.
Tear the basil into pieces and sprinkle evenly on top. Let cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Store leftovers, covered, in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Eggplant Parmesan is just as delicious (and arguably even better) served cold the next day.
Excerpted from How to Eat with One Hand. Copyright © 2020 by Christine Flynn and Emma Knight. Photography by Suechand Beck. Published by Penguin Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.