Eggplant Parmesan, Plus the Perfect Simple Marinara Sauce

I like to play classical music sometimes on Sundays because I think it’s funny to hear it interspersed with my husband’s crazy, profane outbursts during the Giants game. But that’s neither here nor there. These sounds together were the background music for today’s recipe: Grandma’s Eggplant Parmesan.

My grandma on my mom’s side will tell you that she doesn’t know how to cook anything good other than her eggplant parmesan. And you know what? It totally doesn’t matter. I can see how she’s gotten through life thus far armed only with the cooking knowledge of this dish. Because it is awesome.

Delicious, crispy eggplant is breaded and browned, stacked and baked to form layers of yummy mozzarella, pecorino romano and fresh marinara goodness. The recipe is simple and especially perfect for a Sunday, when you can make a batch of sauce to freeze or store in the fridge for easy dinners throughout the week. Enjoy!

Note: This recipe will serve 4.
Tip: Double this recipe, as I often do, and make a whole extra meal to pop in the freezer for a ready-to-go dinner another night.

Grandma’s Eggplant Parmesan

  • 1 medium sized eggplant, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs, seasoned/Italian style
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk (regular, soy, or almond)
  • 1 1/2 cup grated pecorino romano cheese, divided
  • 1 pint fresh mozzarella
  • 3 cups marina sauce* (recipe at bottom. Hint: make your marinara first so it’s ready to go when you are.)

Directions: First, set up your station near the stove. You’ll need a bowl for your breadcrumbs, a bowl for your eggs, and 2 cookie sheets for your eggplant (or 1, if you want to bake them in batches).

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Beat the eggs together in one bowl. Add the milk to the eggs and blend. In a second bowl, add your breadcrumbs, + 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. (Note: I like to add 1 tbsp. oregano, and 1 tsp. garlic powder to the breadcrumb mixture, but a simple “Italian style” breadcrumb will do just fine.)

Lightly grease the cookie sheets with butter or a bit of olive oil. Dip each slice of eggplant first into the egg mixture, careful that it is fully coated, and then into the breadcrumb mixture, also making sure it is fully coated. Transfer each piece to the cookie sheets, in a single layer. Once complete, bake the eggplant for 15 minutes on one side, flip, then 10 minutes on the second side.

Now, get out a baking dish. Add a ladle-full of marinara sauce to the bottom of your baking dish, and start layering: eggplant slices, marinara sauce, fresh mozzarella, pecorino romano…eggplant slices, marinara sauce, fresh mozzarella, pecorino romano. Two layers should do it, with the amount of eggplant you have baked. Keep going until you are out of eggplant slices.

Right about now your oven should be ready to go, so pop that sucker in and set the timer for 20 minutes, or until the sauce and cheese start bubbling. When it’s done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve. Smile. Enjoy.

Tip: You want your cheese on top to be slightly browned/bubbly when you take it out. If it is not, switch your oven from bake mode to broil mode, and put it under the broiler for 3 minutes (no longer!) and it will have a lightly browned look when you take it out.

*For the marinara:

This is my mother’s favorite go-to tomato sauce. And, for insurance purposes, my dad is an “off-the-boat” Italian who has vouched for this recipe for years.

  • 4 cans Tuttarosso brand crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans Tuttarosso brand tomato puree
  • 10 (yes, 10) cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced in half
  • 1 bunch basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano (or dried)
  • salt & crushed pepper

Directions for marinara: Place a large stockpot on the stove and turn the burner to medium heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat for a few minutes until oil is warm.

Add the garlic to the pot and sautee a few minutes until it is lightly browned. Now it’s time to add all of the canned  tomatoes (both crushed and pureed.)

Add the halved onion to the pot, sprinkle salt and pepper, and add the oregano. Tear the basil leaves and add those, too. Stir everything together, reduce the heat to low, and allow to simmer for about an hour.

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[…] Step 7: Distribute the extra herbs. Last, but not least: drive around and place the bags of extra dried fresh oregano into your friends’ mailboxes. Disappoint them terribly when they call you and you explain that it is not what they think it is, then cheer them up and tell them to go make some sauce. […]