New Recipe: Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan
Our easy, cheesy baked eggplant Parmesan recipe skips the salting and frying and uses only a smidge of olive oil
Photos by Olga Ivanova
Eggplant can be polarizing. Too bitter! Too mushy! say some. Mmm, love that slight, intriguing bitterness. Mmm, love that creamy yet meaty texture, say I. And yes, I’m also one of those folks who tells naysayers that they just haven’t had good eggplant (because it’s true). Wherever you land on the eggplant divide, I predict our new recipe for Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan will delight fans and convert skeptics.
Crispy on the outside with a coating of panko breadcrumbs, and tender on the inside, the baked eggplant slices are layered with just the right amount of sweet, rich tomato sauce and salty, melty cheese. Heck, the eggplant stacks are even handsome, a big step up from traditional, sometimes sloshy casserole. Here’s what makes our recipe special, and what you need to know about how to cook the best eggplant Parmesan.
5 secrets for great eggplant Parmesan
Traditional Italian eggplant Parm recipes can be complicated and messy, what with all that salting and frying and casserole-ing. But there’s an easier, tastier way.
1. Get good eggplant. There’s no need for salting slices to get rid of bitterness if you know how to shop. Look for globe eggplants (the big, common, purple variety) that are taut and glossy with green leaves. They should feel heavy for their size and firm but with a little give. Eggplants that are withered and/or rock-hard are overly mature and have likely formed seeds inside, which can make their flavor bitter. You can use 1 large eggplant or 2 medium eggplants for this recipe.
2. Skip the frying and the paper towels. Yes, eggplant can soak up oil like a sponge, and it can dry out, which is why cooks are tempted to add lots of oil. You need a way to get those slices tender without being greasy, which brings us to the next point.
3. Add a crumb coating. It turns out if you coat the eggplant slices with breadcrumbs (here, crispy panko, with egg to make the crumbs stick), you seal the moisture in, and the eggplant bakes up tender but not mushy with a crunchy outside. Double win. Set the breaded slices in a single layer on the baking sheet for this part of the recipe and bake them uncovered until golden brown.
4. Use an excellent marinara. We’ve all got our favorite store-bought brand, and that’s totally fine here. If you’re so inclined, though, you can make marinara sauce from scratch; this deeply flavorful homemade version features three kinds of canned tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh rosemary. Whichever you go with, layer it up with those crispy eggplant slices and the cheese and finish the stacks on the baking sheet. (No baking dish is required for this recipe, and you bake the eggplant parmesan uncovered.)
5. Shred your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheese is a time-saver for sure. If you can spare a few extra minutes, buy a block of whole-milk mozzarella cheese and another of Parmesan cheese and shred them with a box grater. You’ll avoid the preservatives and anti-caking ingredients that come with the pre-shredded kind. The texture will be more moist, and the flavor will be loads fresher and more intense.
Ready to cook?
Before you get started, here are answers to just a few more questions you might have about eggplant parmesan, especially if this is your first time making it.
How long does it take to make? Our easy eggplant Parmesan takes about 30 minutes prep time and 1 hour total time, so you can pull off this comfort food even on a weeknight.
How thick should the eggplant slices be? The recipe calls for cutting 1/3-inch thick rounds.
What temperature do you bake eggplant Parmesan? The recipe bakes at 400°.
What to serve with eggplant Parmesan? Your favorite big green salad is the perfect accompaniment.
Is eggplant Parmesan gluten-free? While this recipe is not gluten-free because it calls for regular panko breadcrumbs for the breading, you can definitely choose gluten-free panko if you prefer. Also check any store-bought marinara to be sure you have a gluten-free brand.
Can I customize the recipe? Yes! For instance, feel free to add seasonings to the egg coating or to the marinara such as oregano, black pepper, garlic powder, or Italian seasoning.
How do you reheat baked eggplant Parmesan? If you want to reheat the stacks the next day, cover them loosely with foil and bake in a 350° oven until hot, 10 to 15 minutes.
Sheet Pan Eggplant Parmesan
More ways to love eggplant
Though eggplant is available year-round, the peak season is July through October, so eggplant fans may want to get ready with more eggplant recipes! Here are a few additional ways to enjoy this tasty (and eminently edible) member of the nightshade family.