As I mentioned before, yesterday was my sister-in-law's birthday! Recently, she has been talking about Eggplant Parmesan and how much she loves it but she does not get the opportunity to enjoy it as much as she would like. My brother, who does a lot of their cooking tends to prepare only those items he likes and, unfortunately for Jen, Eggplant Parmesan does not make the cut as far as Dave is concerned. I figured she would enjoy a night off from kitchen duty so, I made her the super simple version of Eggplant Parmesan. It is so easy because it eliminates the frying of the eggplant in favor of oven browning and, as a matter of fact, you do not even need to turn the stove on, not even for the sauce.
Super Simple Eggplant Parmesan
1 large eggplant
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 large can Italian tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1 bunch fresh basil, torn
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
few tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice eggplant into 1/2 inch discs. Place the flour and panko breadcrumbs on two separate plates, beat the egg into a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper. Dredge each eggplant slice in the flour, dip in the egg and press into the Panko breadcrumbs. Place on the breaded eggplant on the parchment lined baking sheets. Drizzle over a little olive oil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheets from the oven, flip over each eggplant and drizzle with a little olive oil. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes. They will be lightly golden on the edges, very crunchy and not at all oily. Set aside to cool.
Prepare sauce by placing tomatoes in a large mixing bowl. Using a potato masher, break down the tomatoes until fairly smooth but still chunky (poke each tomato before mashing to prevent them from squirting all over you..just in case, wear an apron!). Add torn basil, garlic, hot pepper flakes, sugar, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil and stir well to combine. That's it! No need to cook the sauce on the stove because it is going to bake in the oven once the casserole is made.
Oil a casserole dish and place on layer of eggplant on the bottom. Cover with about 1/2 of the sauce, 1/2 of the mozzarella and 1/2 of the Parmesan cheese. Proceed with another layer of eggplant and follow with sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degree for about 20 minutes. Remove foil cover and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.