Mmmm! Mmmm! Eggplant Parmesan!
For the last two years, our son has filled out a survey for both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day answering a few simple questions about his parents, things like our name, age, favorite thing to do, etc. Unlike some of the items my kiddos bring home that get discreetly “recycled” these little gems are safely tucked away in the memory boxes. I love them for the insight they offer into how my amazing little boy processes things at different stages in life and I say that not just because this year he declared that his father was 62 while I am mere 19.* He was surprisingly accurate for a number of things stating that one of his father’s favorite things to do is “play light saber fight” with him, that his dad is a soccer coach and can kick “very well”, that mom “works on the computer”, and that I love to “play and rest and snuggle” with him. While I wouldn’t say that he’s quite nailed our favorite food – honestly I’m not sure my husband has ever requested “chicken bars” for dinner – at least for me he’s in the ballpark; I mean, if cake or a loaf of French bread for dinner is out of the question, then my favorite food would definitely be something Italian though I’d probably take our meal for this week, Eggplant Parmesan, over spaghetti.
If you make only one of the recipes I post on this blog, this would be the one I’d suggest. Back when we started with The Home Grown Farm, this was the first recipe I made with our vegetables that just knocked our socks off. Part of the fun in eating locally grown vegetables in season is that you get to enjoy new crops all throughout the year. I’ve found the old adage “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is certainly true when it comes to the seasonal veggies because I have been patiently waiting for eggplant to come back so that we could enjoy this meal again.
Admittedly, this is one meal that takes a little bit of time to prepare but I promise it’s worth it. And, really, it took me one hour start to finish including homemade sauce and a couple of amazing, or amazingly distracting, preschoolers.
Whether you’re cooking this up for the father – uncle, brother, grandfather, son, friend, mentor – in your life or enjoying it on a quiet evening alone, may your heart be full and your joy abundant.
Happy Father’s Day!
*Okay, so, full disclosure: one of my son’s favorite facts about his father is that he is 6’2” and, since the boy only just turned 5, he tends to confuse age and height. In truth, I am the senior-most member of our little family and, because it’s Father’s Day, I’m willing to own that before God and the interwebs.
The Homegrown Mom’s Eggplant Parmesan
1 package Italian sausage
½ onion, diced
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
½ cup water
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp. Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. sugar
Salt, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste
1 eggplant, sliced into ½ inch slices (I got 16 slices out of my eggplant using the width of my pinky as a guide for size)
½ cup Panko Bread Crumbs
¾ cup Italian Bread Crumbs
4 Tbsp. parmesan cheese (the kind in a can)
1 lb. linguini noodles
¼ cup water
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
5 oz. parmesan cheese, shredded
6 Tbsp. olive oil
Put on a pot of water for the noodles and cook them at any point in the process once the water starts boiling. Once cooked, I leave the water in the pot and let the noodles sit in a strainer until we’re ready to serve. A minute or two before plating the food, drop the noodles back into the warm water and allow them to separate, then drain and serve.
- In a large sauté pan, cook sausage until fully browned. You may want to drain off some of the grease but be sure to leave at least 1 tablespoon in the pan.
- Add the diced onion and minced garlic and cook until the onions are slightly tender and fragrant.
- Pour in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and ½ cup water, stirring to combine.
- Add remaining sauce ingredients and cook for a few minutes, then reduce heat to simmer. Stir the sauce occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick while you prepare the eggplant.
- Mix the panko, Italian bread crumbs, and canned parmesan cheese in a pie plate.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 eggs and ¼ cup of water.
- Set up an assembly line with your sliced eggplant, the egg wash, the breading, and an empty plate.
- Put a piece of eggplant in the egg wash, being sure to coat both sides, then dredge in the breading, again being sure both sides are covered. Place on the empty plate and repeat the process with the remaining slices of eggplant.
- Pour 3 Tbsp. olive oil on rimmed cookie sheet and place in 425° oven for 5 minutes.
- Once the oil is hot and beginning to smoke, place all of the prepared eggplant slices on the cookie sheet and cook for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, shred your cheese and stir your sauce.
- Flip the eggplant over, drizzle another 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil on the pan, and cook for another 5-8 minutes, until both sides are crispy and golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave the oven ON.
- Spread a few tablespoons of sauce in a 9 x 13 pan. Layer half of the cooked eggplant slices in the pan, cover with half of the sauce and half of the shredded cheeses. Put the second layer of eggplant slices on top of the cheese then cover with the remaining sauce and top with the remaining shredded cheese. [Insert lovely picture of fully prepared casserole here. Oops.]
- Place in the oven for 10- 15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted then turn the broiler on for the a few minutes until the cheese begins to brown and crisp.
- Remove from oven and let the casserole settle for a few minutes before serving.
- Serve over linguini with a side salad, green beans, or the veg of your choice and a slice of warm bread.