Lighter Eggplant Parmigiana

My food blog friend Sally @Bewitching Kitchen inspired me to make this lighter version of classic eggplant parmigiana. The eggplant is breaded but oven-baked instead of fried. It was quite delicious. 🙂

I served the cheesy eggplant over pasta with sauce, per my husband’s request, but it really wasn’t necessary. We ate it with spicy and garlicky sautéed broccoli rabe and roasted asparagus on the side. I used my new favorite jarred sauce, Trader Joe’s Italian Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine, as a shortcut. This recipe was adapted from The Kitchen, contributed by Jeff Mauro, via Bewitching Kitchen.com. Great!

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 medium to large eggplant
  • 2 eggs, beaten with a teaspoon of water
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 24 ounces jarred tomato sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine)
  • slices of fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1 pound)
  • 1/2 pound of prepared pasta, for serving, as desired (I used Capunti pasta)
  1. Heat a rimmed baking sheet – empty – in a very hot oven, 450 F to 500 F, preferably on convection.
  2. While the baking sheet is heating, peel the eggplant, cut crosswise in 1/2 inch slices. Place on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.
  3. Put the eggs, water, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
  4. Mix the breadcrumbs and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese in another bowl next to it.
  5. Dip each eggplant slice into the egg wash, but allow just one side to get wet with the mixture.
  6. Next, dip it in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing to coat, and carefully place on a rack with the crumb side up.
  7. Make sure you have the tomato sauce warmed up and ready to go, and the cheese slices also nearby.
  8. Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and drizzle the olive oil to coat the hot surface.
  9. Working quickly, add the eggplant slices with the crumb-coated side down. It will stick to the oil and start to get pretty hot right away.
  10. Add the tomato sauce on top, cover with cheese, and place in the oven, reducing the temperature to 375 F, preferably on convection.
  11. Cook for 20 to 25+ minutes. When the cheese is starting to get golden brown at the edges, the eggplant will be done. (Additional sauce can be added on top of the cheese halfway through the cooking process, if desired.)
  12. Serve immediately with your favorite side dish.

Two Years Ago: Oaxacan Pork Picadillo Tacos

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Layered Eggplant & Polenta Casserole

The plus side (supposedly!) of the original recipe for this dish from Martha Stewart was that it was a vegetarian casserole without cheese. After seeing an adaptation on Kirkley Crossing, I added fresh mozzarella. :/ Cheese makes everything better! I added fresh spinach too.

I made the polenta but did use jarred marinara as a shortcut. We enjoyed it with a green salad. Cheesy vegetarian casseroles are perfect comfort food in cold weather!

Yield: Serves 6

For the Polenta:

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup polenta or coarse yellow cornmeal (not quick cooking)
  1. Mix one cup of liquid with the cornmeal and stir. This prevents the cornmeal from lumping when added to the boiling liquid.
  2. Bring the remaining stock to a boil in a 3 or 4 quart sauce pot and add the salt and pepper.
  3. To the boiling stock, pour the cornmeal slurry in a steady stream, stirring constantly until completely added.
  4. Simmer over low heat, stirring often, until done, about 30 to 40 minutes. When done, polenta will pull away from the sides of the pot and will be soft in texture.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and finish as desired. Adjust the consistency with additional stock or water, if necessary. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  6. Pour onto a greased half-sheet pan and refrigerated until cool and firm. (I coated the sheet pan with cooking oil spray.)

For the Layered Eggplant & Polenta Casserole:

  • 24 oz jar (3 cups) marinara sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Italian Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine- delicious!)
  • 1 batch Polenta (recipe above)
  • 2 large handfuls organic baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil, or more if necessary
  • coarse salt
  • 1 medium eggplant, preferably organic, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1 pound (16 oz) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Preheat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  3. Slice polenta into squares about 1/2 inch thick. (I cut mine into 24 pieces.) Brush lightly with olive oil. Place in the skillet until lightly browned. Flip over and repeat. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in the skillet until nicely browned, flip over and repeat. Transfer to a plate.
  5. Spoon about 1/2 cup tomato sauce into a 9-inch square baking dish, spreading to coat evenly. Arrange eggplant slices snugly in a single layer. (I used 9 slices per layer.)
  6. Top each round with a sprinkling of spinach (1 large handful) and a slice of mozzarella cheese.
  7. Top with a layer of polenta.
  8. Spoon about 3/4 to 1 cup tomato sauce over the top. Repeat with another layer of eggplant, spinach, cheese, and polenta. Finish by dotting with remaining tomato sauce.
  9. Cover with foil; place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until bubbling and juicy, about 45 minutes.
  10. Remove foil; place on upper rack in the oven and continue baking until sauce is lightly caramelized and eggplant is tender, about 15 minutes more.
  11. Remove from oven; let cool slightly, and serve.

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Eggplant Rollatini

Eggplant Rollatini is my absolute favorite dish to order when we go to Little Italy in the Bronx. Our family tradition is to go to the same restaurant each time we visit, Dominick’s, for delicious family-style Italian food. This dish is only served on Sundays- and only while it lasts. I’ve been disappointed on a couple of occasions when it has run out before we have been able to get in our order.

Making this dish was a fabulous way to use my gorgeous CSA eggplant! This recipe was adapted from Mad Hungry Family: 120 Essential Recipes to Feed the Whole Crew by Lucinda Scala Quinn. I didn’t peel the eggplants, reduced the amount of prosciutto, and increased the casserole baking time. The prosciutto can easily be omitted to make a vegetarian version. Wonderful.

For the Simple Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • one 28-ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes, cut with a knife or kitchen shears
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt

For the Eggplant and Filling:

  • 2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
  • 3 T grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 2 large eggplants, peeled (if desired) and cut lengthwise into twelve to sixteen 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 5 to 8 oz sliced prosciutto, optional
  • 1 loaf Italian bread, for serving

To Make the Sauce:

  1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat, swirl in the oil, and add the garlic and red pepper flakes, stirring until the garlic lightly sizzles but does not brown, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add the tomatoes and salt. Simmer over medium heat for at least 20 minutes and up to 30 minutes.
  3. Taste and adjust seasoning, to taste.

To Make the Eggplant Rollatini:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  2. Shred enough mozzarella to measure 1/2 cup and add it to the bowl; reserve the remaining mozzarella.
  3. Add the egg, salt, and pepper and mix well.
  4. Heat an oven to 400 degrees, preferably set to convection roast.
  5. Brush the eggplant slices with oil on one side and place oil-side up on two parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheets.
  6. Roast for 20 minutes, flipping the eggplant slices halfway through cooking.
  7. Remove sheet pans from the oven and let the eggplant cool for about 10 minutes. (Keep oven on!)
  8. Spread a thin layer of the ricotta mixture on each piece of eggplant.
  9. Top with a slice of prosciutto, if using.
  10. Roll the eggplant into a rollatini. Repeat with the remaining slices and filling.
  11. Coat the bottom of a deep baking dish with some of the tomato sauce.
  12. Place the rollatini in the dish, nestling them close to each other.
  13. When the pan is filled, put some sauce on the top of the eggplants and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  14. Finally, cut slices from the remaining fresh mozzarella and place on top of each rollatini.
  15. Bake until the cheese is melted, bubbling, and lightly brown in spots, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  16. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving with slices of Italian bread.

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Shortcut Baked Rigatoni with Meatballs

There are so many end-of-the-school-year parties this time of year. A great time to share a crowd-pleasing casserole! I brought this baked pasta dish to my son’s pre-County Championship Swim Meet pasta dinner. I was thrilled when my friend’s husband asked for the recipe. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from such a fun book- Mad Genius Tips: Over 90 Expert Hacks + 100 Delicious Recipes by Justin Chapple and the Editors of Food and Wine. I love Chapple’s column in the printed magazine and knew I would enjoy this book as well. The pasta and the meatballs cook in the oven. Truly genius!

  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed basil, torn or chiffonade, plus more for garnish
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound ziti, rigatoni, rotini, fusilli, shells, or campanelle pasta
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 28 oz (about 3 cups) prepared marinara sauce
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the pork, beef, bread crumbs, eggs, 1/3 cup torn basil, 1/4 cup of Parmesan and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper; mix well.
  3. Using a cookie scoop, form the meat mixture into one-inch balls.
  4. In a 9-by-13-inch ceramic baking dish, spread half of the pasta in an even layer.
  5. Arrange half of the meatballs (about 16) and mozzarella on the pasta.
  6. Spoon half of the marinara on top and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  7. Repeat with the remaining pasta, meatballs, cheese, and marinara. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
  8. Place baking dish on a rimmed cookie sheet. Add 2 1/2 cups of water to the baking dish and cover tightly with foil.
  9. Bake for about 1 hour, until the pasta is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
  10. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes longer, until lightly browned.
  11. Let stand for 5 minutes. Garnish with basil and parmesan and serve.

Make Ahead: The baked pasta can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently.

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Baked Spaghetti & Mozzarella

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As much as I am absolutely yearning for warmer weather, I do enjoy making (and eating!) comfort food! I don’t know what my body is going to do when I start making lighter meals again…

This is a kid-friendly and pot luck-friendly main dish casserole which would be a great alternative to a Baked Ziti or macaroni and cheese. It could easily be doctored up for a more adventurous palate by adding onions, mushrooms, greens… you get the idea. We did all enjoy it as is with a green salad. It’s simple, cheesy, crispy, and tasty. This recipe was adapted from Everyday Food; I altered the seasonings and used whole wheat spaghetti.

Yield: 6 servings

  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) whole peeled tomatoes (I used Cento San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 pound spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
  • 2 cups packed basil leaves (from 1 bunch), torn if large
  • 3/4 pound (12 oz) fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2 1/2 cups)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (on convection).
  2. Set a large pot of salted water to boil.
  3. In a food processor, pulse tomatoes until coarsely chopped.
  4. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add red pepper flakes and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cook at a rapid simmer until sauce thickens, about 12 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Meanwhile, cook pasta 5 minutes (it will still be crunchy). Drain pasta and return to pot.
  6. Add tomato sauce, basil, and half the mozzarella to the pasta and toss to combine.
  7. Transfer mixture to a 3-quart baking dish and top with remaining cheese. Bake until cheese is golden and edges are bubbling, about 25 minutes.

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Classic Mozzarella Grandma Pizza Pie

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My true (pizza) love is a thin-crust margherita pie- AMAZING. This pizza is the complete opposite- yet absolutely delicious too! The crust is thick, fluffy, and tender. The top is loaded with fresh mozzarella and a special tomato sauce. I have enjoyed a “Grandma” slice from a pizzeria in the past, but this version was exponentially better. This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, contributed by Alfia Muzio.

Yield: 1 pie, about 6 servings

This pillowy crust dough proofs for 24-hours prior to baking. I was able to use my fingertips to form it into the 18×13-inch rectangle with ease.

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For the Grandma-Style Pizza Dough:

  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ tsp.)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for surface (I used 1/2 white whole wheat flour.)
  1. Combine yeast and 1½ cups warm water (105–110°) in a large bowl; let stand until yeast starts to foam, about 10 minutes.
  2. Mix in 2 Tbsp. oil, then salt and 2 cups flour. Add another 2 cups flour, a cup at a time, mixing until incorporated and a shaggy dough forms.
  3. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until soft, smooth, and elastic, 10–12 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill 24 hours.
  4. Coat an 18×13” rimmed baking sheet with remaining 1/4 cup oil. Gently and gradually stretch dough until it reaches the edges of baking sheet. (If dough springs back or is stiff to work with, let it rest 10 minutes before continuing. You may need to let it rest more than once.)
  5. Cover dough on baking sheet tightly with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place (but not too warm!—about 70° is ideal for yeast to grow) until it is puffed and full of air bubbles, 30–40 minutes. (I used the proof setting on my warming drawer.)

 The anchovies give the sauce something special. SO good!

For the Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce:

  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, drained (I used San Marzano)
  • 2 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic cloves
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Pulse tomatoes, anchovies, garlic, oil, and basil in a food processor or blender until mostly smooth (some texture is okay); season with salt and pepper.

To Assemble the Pizza:

  • Grandma-Style Pizza Dough
  • 12 to 16 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated (about 2½ cups)
  • 1½ cups Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce
  • coarse or flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) and crushed red pepper flakes, for serving, optional
  1. Place a rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 500° or as high as oven will go.
  2. Once dough has risen on baking sheet, top with mozzarella, and dot pie with tomato sauce; sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes, if desired. Bake pie until golden brown and crisp on bottom and sides, 20–30 minutes.

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Margherita Pizza with 24-hour Crust

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This is the PERFECT pizza, a classic, and my favorite. Every version has subtle differences- the key to this Brooklyn pizzeria recipe is the crust for which I included the link below. It is proofed in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours before being used. The result is a more tender dough. Wonderful. It is made with a combination of refined 00 flour and all-purpose flour.

The pizza sauce recipe is from the same pizzeria. It is pure and simple, San Marzano tomatoes pureed with a touch of olive oil and salt. I titled it “Perfect Pizza Sauce #2” in the link below as it is slightly different from my original “Perfect Pizza Sauce!” It is perfect! 🙂

This is my second entry in the Fiesta Friday Challenge #1 at The Novice Gardener: to post a dish made with both herbs and yeast. This recipe was adapted from Roberta’s Cookbook by Carlo Mirarchi, Brandon Hoy, Chris Parachini, and Katherine Wheelock, of Roberta’s in Brooklyn, NY.

  1. Preheat the oven to the highest temperature possible. (At my house the oven is set to 500 degrees on “Stone”.) Place a pizza stone on the lowest rack if a stone setting is available, otherwise place the stone on the middle rack. Let the oven heat up for 1 hour.
  2. Put the sauce in the center of the dough round and use the back of a spoon to spread it evenly over the pizza, stopping about half an inch from the edge.
  3. Drizzle a little olive oil over the sauce and scatter the basil on top.
  4. Break the mozzarella into several large chunks and distribute it over the pizza, covering the basil so that it is protected from the heat of the oven.
  5. Bake the pizza until the crust is golden brown and bubbly, about 5 minutes.
  6. Turn on the broiler. Broil the pizza for an additional 1-2 minutes- keeping a close watch so that it doesn’t become too brown. Serve.

One Year Ago:

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