- e quarts ( 12 cups) of Canola Oil, for deep frying
- 2 large eggplant, firm with no bruises
- 2 tbsp Kosher salt for eggplant
- 6 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 6 cups ice water
- 3 cups panko breadcrumbs, pulsed fine in a food processor (or 3 cups fine Italian breadcrumbs)
- 4 cups rich tomato sauce, recipe follows or your favorite tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
Ingredients for Rich Tomato Sauce
- 3 28ox. can of whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 tsp toasted fennel seeds
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 6 basil leaves
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 4 Tb extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
1. Trim each end of the eggplant, discard. Slice each eggplant into 6-7 pieces about 1 inch thick.
2. Place the eggplant in a large mixing bowl, season/toss with kosher salt. Place salted eggplant slices in a colander and place the colander into the large mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight in the refrigerator, or up to 2 days.
3. Heat oil in a large (8qt) pot or deep fryer to 350 degrees.
4. Meanwhile prepare the breading station: place 3 cups of flour in a medium mixing bowl, place ice water in a medium mixing bowl and combine 3 cups of flour with the breadcrumbs in another medium mixing bowl.
5. Shake any excess salt or liquid from the eggplant slices. Dip eggplant slices first in flour, then dip in ice water then into the flour-breadcrumb mixture. Be careful to roll the slices and pat to evenly coat the eggplant.
6. Working in 3 batches, carefully place eggplant, one at a time into the oil, about 5-6 per batch.
7. Fry eggplant until golden brown, flipping the slices halfway, about 8 to 10 minutes.
8. Remove the slices from the oil, placing them on a paper towel lined baking sheet to cool.
9. Preheat oven temperature to 350 degrees.
10. In an 8 x 12-inch baking dish, place 2 cups of tomato sauce, spread evenly.
11. Place the 3 largest eggplant slices on one side of the pan. Over each slice, spoon 1 tablespoon cup of tomato sauce and grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Repeat with all slices of eggplant, layering them in a shingled effect to fill out the rest of the pan.
12. Spoon remaining tomato sauce over the eggplant, and another good sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano. Place the sliced mozzarella over the top.
13. Bake, covered, for 45 minutes. Then bake another 15 minutes, uncovered, until the cheese is melted and the tops turn light brown.
14. Remove from the oven. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with more Parmigiano and basil leaves. Enjoy!
Chef Tips: I was taught this eggplant parm technique during my first trip to Italy back in 2009. The overnight salting of the eggplant, once fried, creates a delicious creamy interior. For best results, bread the slices of eggplant while you fry them. The breading will remain intact and protect the eggplant from getting oil logged. You can season your flour and breadcrumb mixture if wanted, but the eggplant will be seasoned from the purging process, and the Parmigiano Reggiano adds layered in seasoning.
Directions for Tomato Sauce
1. Pour a small amount of olive oil into the bottom of a large baking dish (11x14 inches) and rub it all over the base and sides of the dish. Pour in the canned tomatoes. Using hands, lightly crush the tomatoes.
2. Using a microplane, grate garlic cloves over the top of the tomatoes.
3. Stir in spices and herbs, including salt and pepper.
4. Finish with extra virgin olive oil and let it sit on top of the mixture, do not mix in.
5. Place into the oven and bake for 1 hour, carefully stirring the mixture after 30 minutes.
6. Remove from oven and let cool. Remove bay leaves, and then transfer the sauce to a covered container to refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
Tips: I created this recipe to replace the “all-day” tomato sauce on the cooktop, which takes a long time and creates a big mess. It is an efficient way to create a richly flavored tomato sauced. Please note that the olive oil is not mixed into the tomato mixture before cooking, to allow caramelization of the top layer of tomatoes due to them frying in that oil.