Eggplant, plush and sultry, ideally salted and perfectly fried, is pretty much the best food in the world. There’s a reason Italian cuisine geniuses like Marcella Hazan made their names on the backs of their gorgeous eggplant dishes.
Eggplant parm takes a good thing even further (as though that were possible). Garlicky, slightly spicy sauce, breaded eggplant with a meltingly tender center, plus mozzarella: It’s a dreamboat of a dish.
This is the recipe you want. It uses largely pantry staples (aside from the nightshade herself). Here are a few reasons why it rules:
1. The Sauce
It’s homemade, garlicky and a little spicy. (However, you can sub in a good store-bought sauce you love.) And while you’re at it, you should make a double batch. Freeze half and use half now. We’re particularly partial to fire-roasted tomatoes, which lend a smokiness to anything they’re in. This sauce is the stuff you want for pizza, pasta, and everything else. Dollop a few spoonfuls over the pasta you serve alongside the parm, or spread it on crostini. Transform it into an Indian curry—yes, you can—by adding coconut milk, curry powder, and experimenting until the flavors are right. It’s heretical, but it can work.
2. It’s Better Than Meatball Parm
Let’s all just admit it right now while we’re gathered ‘round the table: Eggplant Parm is better than Meatball Parm. Yes, we went there. Unless the meatball parmesan is gloriously fresh, made to order, and uses the best meat in town, really good eggplant parm beats it when you’re using the right recipe. This is that recipe.
3. Two Cheeses
Cheeseballs, unite: This recipe uses both a bit of Parmesan and a glorious amount of fresh shredded mozzarella cheese. This isn’t going to feel like Health Month food. You’re welcome.
4. Breadcrumbs Beat Flour
Ever have eggplant parm that was just sort of limp and spineless and… meh? It might have had a flour dip as part of the “breading” process. So use real breadcrumbs, such as Panko, instead. They’ll give your meal needed backbone, and toughen up the “fillets” of eggplant so they fry up properly, with a velvety center and a crisp exterior. Divine.
5. Layers of Awesome
The layering process is key, here. You’re doing the same sauce/ eggplant/ mozzarella dance you might have tried before. What’s changed is that now you’re keeping an eye on proportion, using identical amounts of each ingredient. That’s the key to bites that have just enough eggplant, just enough sauce, and just enough molten, browned, burbling cheese in each bite.