This is one of our favorite meals. For us it's an easy go-to recipe that comes together quickly and always hits the spot. Since the preparation and baking take less time than waiting for ordered-in food to arrive, we reserve this for those would-be order in nights, when we don't want to think too much about food...we just want to eat it soon. Very near to our home there are dozens of options for Italian delivery...you can probably yell out the window for eggplant parm and there will be a restaurant within earshot...or at least a neighbor who will yell back the phone number of their go-to place.
But man...traditional delivery eggplant parm is So Heavy!...often fried, always covered with mountains of gooey cheese. And the beautiful eggplant is completely lost. Eggplant is so delicious and requires very little dressing up. In the first stage of this recipe we brush thin slices with a little bit of olive oil, add a tiny sprinkle of sea salt and pepper...and after we take the tray of 'em out of the oven it's a struggle for us not to eat them up like potato chips. We of course have to take a little "taste test"...grab like one or two each...and the eggplant is amazing in that simple state.
This recipe is definitely lighter than your average eggplant parm...but we do not sacrifice one bit of flavor in making it lighter. In fact, with the fresh real ingredients there is an abundance of flavor. All the tastes are so much brighter and distinct. The eggplant is right where it should be...it's the star of this show!
And as for the sauce...you can whip up some quick homemade sauce or grab a jar of your favorite. We do either or...depending on what we have in. Our favorite widely available jar sauce is Vincents (which we used here)...and it really does taste just like the sauce they serve in their Little Italy location. The layers of "pink sauce"in this replace the over-the-top cheese and goo in the traditional takeout versions. And we know a lot of people have their certain tastes that they like when it comes to Italian...so by all means, feel free to add what you like and make it your own.
So seriously, theres no reason to pass up eggplant parm because of it's heavy connotations. This version will not leave you with a brick in your belly, but you'll be spoiled with flavor.
Preheat Oven to 450 degrees.
Here is what you will need:
1 Large Eggplant (about 2lbs)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper
1 cup skim milk or plain almond milk
3 Tablespoons all purpose flour
2 garlic cloves minced
1 cup favorite marinara sauce
1/2 cup grated part skim mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup good quality grated Parmesan cheese
fresh basil (optional)
First wash, dry, and slice your eggplant...about 1/2" thick slices. Arrange your eggplant slices on a rimmed cookie sheet. Brush both sides with olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Not too much salt.
Now pop them in the oven and bake them until they are golden brown and very tender. Turn them over about halfway through. This takes between 20 and 25 mins.
While they bake, let's make the sauce! Off the heat, in a medium saucepan, whisk together a 1/4 cup of milk, your flour and garlic.
Now, over medium heat, slowly add the remaining 3/4 cup of milk, and a 1/2 cup of your marinara sauce. (reserve the other 1/2 cup) Whisk, raise heat and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer, and allow your pink sauce to cook and thicken about 2-3 mins.
Now spread a 1/4 cup of the reserved marinara sauce on the bottom of your baking dish.
Arrange your first layer of baked eggplant and spread a layer of pink sauce over it. Then repeat...we had three layers of eggplant in our dish.
For your final layer, spread the remaining pink sauce, the remaining 1/4 cup of marinara, and sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
We added some fresh basil to our top layer as well. Pop in the oven on the top rack and bake until bubbling. About 15-20 mins.
That's it. You can cut and serve like lasagna. You will be bowled over by the bright taste and lack of heavy duty gut busting. Every ingredient is distinct and the flavors just come together perfectly. It's great with a side salad.
We hope you love it! And please let us know when you make it and tell us about any additions you brought to it. We look forward to your comments! Feel free to ask us anything.
xo, Jenny & Aaron