- Course: Main Course
- Skill Level: Easy
- Cost: Inexpensive
- Favorited: 24 Times
Can be made ahead of time.
There are always these guys-big guys, Italian guys, the trash and construction-trade type guys-at the restaurant. Generally, they get it. But there are a few things that trip them up. This preparation is one of them. There's always something wrong with it. The eggplant isn't fried. The eggplant isn't breaded. Something about the cheese. And if they knew about the white pepper, it's hard to imagine what they'd think. So, no: this isn't anybody's grandma's eggplant Parmesan. We're not actually sorry about that.
At the restaurant we use it as a sandwich filling and serve it hot in a baking dish like a noodleless lasagna at parties out in the backyard. The best way to eat it is to sneak down into the kitchen after the cooks have made a batch, wait for a tray of it to cool to room temperature-a couple of hours out of the oven, just when the heat's gone but it hasn't yet met the cold of the fridge-and then attack it, sneaking away with a plateful to eat standing up somewhere.
With bread and a salad, this makes a perfect vegetarian main course for a group. Or, if you bake it on a Sunday afternoon, you can feed yourself from a tray of it for a couple of days.
1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Toss the sliced egg-plant with the olive oil, salt, and white pepper to taste in a large mixing bowl, making sure that the eggplant is evenly dressed. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on two baking sheets.
2. Pop the eggplant into the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, flipping it once midway, until it's lightly mottled in parts and deeply browned in others and beginning to-but not quite yet-shrink away from the skin. Remove from the oven (leaving the oven on).
3. Coat the bottom of a medium roasting pan (or other casserole or ovenproof vessel appropriate for a lasagna-type preparation) with a thin slick of tomato sauce. Nestle a single layer of eggplant slices into the sauce, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and give the eggplant a good coating of Pecorino. Repeat until all the ingredients are used-sauce, eggplant, Pecorino-finishing with a layer of cheese. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 3½ hours.
4. Serve eggplant marinara hot, cold, or in between. Arrange a layer of the mozzarella slices over the top of the dish just before you serve it.
Quick Eggplant Fix:
If you don't have 4 hours to bake this thing and you don't have any tomato sauce ready, you can pull off a good approximation in about 2 hours start to finish.
Heat the oven to 350°F. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt—enough to coat them-and let sit for 15 to 30 minutes.
While the eggplant is sitting, start your sauce: combine 4 cloves of garlic and ½ cup of olive oil in a saucepan over low heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring or swirling the pan occasionally, until the garlic is golden and fragrant. Keep the heat low. If the garlic starts to smell acrid or sharp or appears to be browning, pull the pan off the burner and reduce the heat.
While the garlic is getting golden, open a 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, pour them into a bowl, and crush them with your hands. After the garlic's been going for 10 minutes, dump in the tomatoes and add a tiny pinch of red pepper flakes and maybe a teaspoon of salt. Turn the heat to medium so the sauce simmers, but not too aggressively. Cook, stirring from time to time, while you do the eggplant.
Now the eggplant: Brush off any excess salt, but don't fret over it. Toss the eggplant slices with lh cup olive oil and a few turns of white pepper. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake as directed in the recipe.
Okay, the eggplant is baked and the sauce has had as much time as you have for it to cook. Assemble the dish as directed in the recipe and bake it for as long as possible. After an hour or so, you should be good.
The Way we used to do it:
We used to use twice as much mozzarella to make this. We'd lay it in the pan between each layer of eggplant. We've moved away from that method because the cheese takes on a strange though not unlikable rubberiness, and we don't like the way eating long-cooked cheese makes us feel. But, hey, if that's what you're into, it's cool. We were there once, too.
Nutritional information is based on 6 servings, 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving, but does not include Tomato Sauce. For nutritional information on Tomato Sauce, please follow the link above.