I never understood the appeal of eggplant Parmesan until I traveled in Sicily, where it is all about the eggplant rather than the breading and cheese. I love this version of this dish, since it is closer to the real deal. Young, locally harvested eggplant tends not to be as bitter as the mature variety available in most supermarkets, so you can generally skip the traditional step of salting it in a colander to release water and bitterness.
- 1¼ cups fresh bread crumbs
- ¼ cup finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese
- 4 medium eggplants (about 3 pounds), cut lengthwise into ¼ to ½-inch-thick slices
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for the baking sheets and dish
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups tomato Sauce, your own homemade sauce, or your favorite commercial brand
- 1¼ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1¼ cups shaved Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese
Preheat the broiler. Generously grease two baking sheets (preferably nonstick) with olive oil. Lightly oil a 9 × 13 × 2-inch baking dish.
Combine the bread crumbs and grated Grana Padano in a small bowl, and set aside.
Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with the olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper. Arrange them in a single layer on the greased baking sheets and broil until the slices are tender, lightly browned, and softened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
Spoon ½ cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of the oiled baking dish. Layer one third of the eggplant slices over the sauce, overlapping them slightly. Spoon ½ cup of the sauce over the eggplant, spreading it evenly, and sprinkle with ½ cup each of the mozzarella and the shaved Grana Padano. Top the cheese with another third of the eggplant slices, another ½ cup of the sauce, and another ½ cup of each cheese. Top with the remaining eggplant slices, sauce, and cheeses. Cover the dish with aluminum foil, and bake in the middle of the oven until the sauce is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle the bread-crumb mixture over the top, and continue to bake until the crumbs are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
• Roast or grill the eggplant instead of broiling it.
• Add fresh basil and/or oregano between the layers.
• Change the flavor by substituting smoked mozzarella for the fresh.